T-R FILE photo A rendering of the yet-to-be built Water Plaza at Mega-10 Park in the Linn Creek District.

It is that time of year when we pay tribute and remember the 4 children, (Andres, Lee Meh, Sae Reh, and Thay Mo) we lost due to the tragic events the summer of 2012 in the Iowa River. These events left a forever impression on many of our hearts. Please take time to remember them and hold their families up in thought and prayer.

Splash 4 Life was founded after their drownings to create a legacy for these children. The original splash pad proposal called for placement at Anson Park. This was due to the central location and tie to Marshalltown’s rich history. The project costs were around $ 250,000.

In 2022, the city finally put a splash pad project on the multi-year Capital Improvement Plan and applied for a Destination Iowa grant, which we were awarded in 2023. Because of DI grant regulations, the splash pad had to be changed to a water plaza as one of the 4 Linn Creek District projects. Costs for the water plaza then soared to over 2 million dollars. After initial funding commitments, the water plaza project still fell short on funding (over a million dollars) and fund raising became a critical issue.

This is when the coordinated efforts between the Chamber and Arts and Culture Alliance came into play. Tom Apgar was approached by their team and he agreed to make a substantial donation to the water plaza to honor the legacy of his family. I am overwhelmed by his generosity and the work of the fundraising team.

I am grateful to Tom for his time, efforts, and financial support and all the other contributions the Apgar family has made to Marshalltown over the decades. They have truly demonstrated what it means to give back to your community.

I am excited that a majority of this great enhancement to our park system will be funded through grants and private donations rather than having our citizens bear the substantial costs. The fundraising may provide an “excess” which could be used for construction overages or future maintenance.

The artistic drawings I have seen of the Apgar Family Water Plaza will provide a fun and unique place for kids to play safely in the water. Although this is not the original Splash 4 Life plan or requested location, it will meet our goals of safe, free and inclusive water play. I encourage everyone to embrace the change in direction because GOD has answered the prayers of many and provided something much larger than my wildest imagination or expectation.

I am thankful for everyone’s support over the past decade because your support has blessed the Splash 4 Life team with the fortitude to navigate through the work, tears, frustration, and now joy this project has taken.

What’s next?

We will turn our focus to ensure a memorial is set up for the children to honor their legacy.

Relaxing in the sun and watching our family and friends enjoy safe and free water play at the Apgar Family Water Plaza!


Leigh Bauder is a cofounder of the Splash 4 Life committee.


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