FORT MYERS, Fla. — As the state of Florida works day and night to recover after Category 4 Hurricane Ian blew through the state last week, the community is coming together to honor lives lost while also spreading encouragement.
Centennial Park in Fort Myers is now home to a memorial for the people who lost their lives from Ian along with people who are still missing. People are welcome to come out and add to the memorial — which has definitely already started.
Photos from the site show notes of encouragement hung on the fence along with flowers and pictures of loved ones both passed and missing.
Leo Soto, a Miami resident who created the memorial in Fort Myers, says around 60 people came out and participated on Wednesday. The city's public information officer and different Facebook groups helped with spreading the word about the pop-up memorial happening in the community.
And this isn't the first time Soto has created a memorial to help with a devastating incident that took the world by surprise.
It all started after the Surfside building collapsed when he lost a high school classmate. He created a memorial then which brought the community together, even being visited by President Biden.
After forming connections with flower distributors, Soto found a nonprofit called the "Wall of Hope Foundation" which has a goal to "provide communities that have been struck by tragedy with the tools necessary to begin the healing process."
Since starting, Soto has traveled to different locations following disasters such as Mayfield, Kentucky; Lviv, Ukraine; Uvalde, Texas and now Fort Myers, Florida.
"The name of the nonprofit I found is called the 'Wall of Hope Foundation' and that's really what it is — it's a wall of hope," he said. "It's a wall where people can come to say their prayers, come and send good energy..."
Soto also explained how Friday was filled with good news after someone previously marked as missing was found. The photo was able to be taken down from the memorial after they were found safe.
To learn more about the nonprofit or ways to donate, click here.