Garden of Innocents was initiated in response to the
death of Destiny Daniels, a 2-1/2 month old little girl who was beaten
to death by her mentally ill mother. Rebeca Navarro-McKelvey, the
organization’s founder, brought the story to the attention of many
friends and family members and began her drive for a memorial fund that
would provide Destiny with a dignified burial. Although Destiny’s body
was claimed by her grandmother, the family did need help with expenses.
Because the memorial fund was highly publicized, much more was raised
than was necessary for Destiny’s funeral; these proceeds were donated to
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a child abuse advocacy group.
Arranging Destiny’s funeral prompted Ms.
Navarro-McKelvey’s desire to assist other children. She contacted the
Medical Examiner’s office and expressed interest. Chief Investigator
Rose Psara informed Ms. Navarro-McKelvey that her office handled
unclaimed children—often preterm infants with teenage mothers, whose
bodies were not claimed by next of kin. These children were buried at
the expense of the City of St. Louis. They were not dressed, had no
memorial service and were buried in unmarked graves. No one could attend
the child's burial.
After learning about the sad destiny of these
children, Garden of Innocents was formed to provide these children with
the final love and respect that all human beings deserve. According to
the organization’s motto, “a person’s a person, no matter how small”
(from Dr. Seuss).