LEXINGTON, Ky. — Prestigious business owners. Well-known philanthropists. Generous corporate partners. All are among the donors to Town Branch Park. But it might be surprising that the first donor to the project was an 8-year-old.
“In this season of giving, Town Branch Park went back to our first contributor, who is now 14 years old, to fill her in on the project and talk about her gift,” said Allison Lankford, executive director of Town Branch Park. “Her enthusiasm and desire to contribute show how much this project resonates with people of all ages and that all contributions are meaningful.”
Lilly Chamblin has been a supporter of Town Branch Park for more than half her life. It started when, at age 5, she was in the car with mom Laura Holoubek and crossed over the Jefferson Street viaduct. Her mom explained how the Town Branch ran under Vine Street, and she asked questions about who covered it up and why. She even wrote a note to her mom about it.
Then, in January 2013, Laura showed Lilly (almost age 8) the renderings from the design competition for Town Branch Park, which were published in the Herald-Leader. Lilly thought they were amazing and asked how soon she could go to the park. Laura explained that it would take years for such a large project. That didn’t dissuade her. She ran upstairs to her room, came down with her piggy bank and emptied all of it into a Ziplock bag. Lilly handed the bag to Laura and said: “Please give this to Jim. I want to help pay for it.”
Former Lexington Mayor Jim Gray being a friend of the family, Laura suggested to Lilly that she should give it to him herself, along with a note explaining why she was giving him money. Gray asked her to meet him at city hall and also invited her to the State of the Merged Government. Gray had her sit at his table and mentioned her in his remarks.
Lilly is still passionate about the project.
“I decided to give the money because of what I learned at The Lexington School,” Lilly said. “Even at a young age, they teach you core values and are very environmentally centered.”
“I think it’s going to be a very good space for all ages and backgrounds. Other parks aren’t super close to downtown. As someone who lives downtown, it will be fun. It will make downtown more peaceful and community-centered.”
Lilly, who will graduate from high school the year construction is set to begin on the park, said she will come back for the grand opening. Lilly plans to study architecture and design – maybe in Toronto.
“Other than coming home, it would be one of the first places I would come back to visit,” Lilly said.
The park has now raised almost $12 million of its $31 million private fund-raising goal to create more than 9 acres of signature downtown park. It also will function as the trailhead connecting 22-miles of biking/walking trails leading from downtown to Lexington’s iconic rural landscape.