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Playground planned to honor Malone family after tragic January fire

Bank donates new playground space to honor the Malone family after tragic January fire.

After two of their classmates were killed in a fire, students at City Neighbors Charter School quickly set to work crafting small memorials with pictures and notes.

Now, planning has begun on a permanent memorial. JPMorgan Chase & Co. is donating a home and land near the school to create a new playground to honor the Malone family, which lost six children in a blaze that engulfed their three-story home in January.

"This pocket playground is going to be beautiful," said Bobbi Macdonald, director of the City Neighbors Foundation, which operates the school. "It was actually really a community effort. A lot of people were trying to figure out what to do with this house."

The long-vacant white wood-frame home at 4310 Raspe Avenue across the street from the school will be torn down. Plans for the playground will be discussed in the coming months, Macdonald said, in the hope of completing it in the summer.

Chase officials learned of the family's loss and convened a group of senior executives in the mortgage division, which decided to demolish the property and donate the land, a Chase spokeswoman said.

"This land will serve a much greater purpose in the hands of City Neighbors and the Baltimore community," Peter Muriungi, Chase's head of Mortgage Servicing, said in a statement. "We are grateful to have played a small role in what will be a truly special place to honor a wonderful family."

Chase purchased the 11,247-square-foot lot for $280,000 in 2013, according to records. The company will also cover the cost of demolishing the structure.

Chase had offered the property to the family, whose home in the 4200 block of Springwood Ave. was destroyed in the blaze, but the Malones have said they do not plan to return to the neighborhood.

The Malones did not respond to a request for comment. Macdonald said the family supports the project.

"They felt like it would be the best kind of memorial for their children," she said.

Six of the nine children of Bill and Katie Malone — Bridgette Anna, 11; Amelia Susan, 10; Amanda Claire, 3; Zoe Juliet, 3; William Francis IV, 2; and Daniel George, 9 months — died in the blaze. Malone's husband, Bill Malone, was not at home at the time of the fire.

Bridgette was a sixth-grader and Amelia was a fourth-grader at City Neighbors.

Erin Malone — who helped her mother pull her 4-year-old sister, Jane, and 5-year-old brother, Jack, from the fire — is a third-grader at the school. Jack is a kindergartner at the school. Both have returned to class, Macdonald said.

"Our teachers, students and families are amazingly tight, strong — a loving community. Some days are hard, some go well. There's this feeling of together moving forward," Macdonald said.

Baltimore fire spokeswoman Blair Adams said the cause of the fire remains under investigation. She declined to provide additional information on the investigation, including when it might be concluded.

The school is planning a small ceremony on Monday to thank Chase officials, and then will work on raising additional funds for the property — which has large, old trees.

"It really adds green space, a place for children to play," Macdonald said. "What better way to remember the children that were lost?"

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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