The death of a child is enough to cripple any parent.
The unthinkable struck Jeff and Donna Babineau in 2005, when, on a family trip in Jamaica, a bus tour accident took the life of their 10-year-old daughter Erin.
But instead of crippling the Stratford couple, the tragedy inspired Jeff and Donna to keep the memory of their little girl alive through preserving her dreams.
"Immediately after the accident we said if there's anything we could do in her memory, it would be sports and to build a gym in her name," Donna Babineau said in the lobby of the nearly complete Erin Babineau Memorial Gym Tuesday.
Babineau said Erin died one week after she began training with a travel softball team, and so she never had the opportunity to play in a first-class facility, which was a dream of hers.
The Erin Babineau Memorial Fund was formed in 2005 with the goal of raising enough money to erect the kind of first-class facility that Erin dreamed of playing in, Babineau said. With enough private and business donations, as well as funds from Jeff and Donna, the dream will become a reality on Saturday, Oct. 22, the date of the indoor facility's grand opening.
"We had a vision six years ago and it took that long to make it happen," Babineau said.
The 14,000-square-foot indoor sports and community center is located at 2275 Main St., behind the Sterling House Community Center. In addition to a large AstroTurf field house, the facility features a community room and offices.
"We put a lot of thought and pride into our planning. I really believe kids' mouths are going to drop," said Babineau, who added that she and her husband have probably spent more than 1000 hours readying the gym since ground broke in April this year. "It's our gift back to the town of Stratford in memory of our daughter."
And there are traces of Erin throughout the facility -- some more evident than others.
On one of the walls enclosing the AstroTurf field is a life-size photo of Erin. The photo was taken the summer before she passed and shows her hurling a softball with determined eyes. The padding on the edge of the playing area is blue and purple, Erin's favorite colors.
In the community room, there are images of pink butterflies, which resemble the letters of her initials, EB. Then there will be the inspirational quotes that will line the wall of the lobby, such as 'Each day is a gift.'
Babineau said the gym will be handed over to Sterling House in 10 years, and until then the center will run some of its programs at the new facility, which is available for rental for use by children high school-aged and younger.
For more information on the grand opening ceremony -- which will include a soccer match between Sterling House Community Center youth teams and a softball hitting clinic -- click here.