Kayla Jean Ricci died in 2002 of an aggressive bacteria strep infection, becoming ill so quickly her parents didn't even get her to the hospital.
Now, in her memory there is the Kayla Jean Ricci Dog Park in Allen Harbor. Kayla's parents, Jim and Sharon, were happy but understandably wistful too.
"We're excited and happy about all this, but we'd rather have her here," said Sharon.
The dog park, a long-held dream for many dog owners in town, came about remarkably fast once the town, the foundation and volunteers got together. The town donated the land, which sits between Allen Harbor Road and Bruce Boyer Road at Allen Harbor, Quonset. Money for the fencing and some landscaping came from the Kayla Jean Ricci Foundation. Members of the North Kingstown Animal Protection League and Boy and Girl Scout troops donated time getting the park completed.
On Monday, dogs large and small roamed the enclosure. There are two different enclosures, one just for smaller dogs, but on this day, most everyone, dog and human alike, was trying out the main enclosure.
When it came time to say a few words, Jim Ricci got to the point quickly. "Kayla just loved animals. Lived and breathed them," he said. "Kayla was always smiling. I tell you right now her face hurts – she's smiling ear to ear."
He added, "It's touching, very touching, the whole thing."
The Kayla Jean Ricci Dog Park is open to all dogs up on their vaccines and their owners, who must stay with them. There is a list of rules at the entrance.