AUGUSTA, W.Va. — A year has passed since Craig Cole began a foundation to help preserve the memory of his adoptive children’s sister, Aliayah Lunsford.
It’s a year that Cole said has been full of ups and downs.
“I know for me personally it’s been probably more of a struggle this year, a year later just really coming to the grips of what we went through as a family,” he said. “It’s definitely a daily process of healing and continuing to move forward and push forward.”
His oldest daughters, Kiara and Destiny, have been heavily involved with the Aliayah Lunsford Foundation, which Cole feels has helped with their grieving.
“It’s definitely been helpful, I think. It keeps you busy,” he said. “It’s a very traumatic situation, and I think as a whole our family is probably experiencing more of that this year than last year because I think last year there was a lot of adrenaline, and we were just able to move forward with it.”
The Foundation started just months after the April trial of Lena Lunsford Conaway, Aliayah’s mother, who was sentenced to life sentence for murder of a child by failure to provide necessities.
“We really wanted to just make sure that Aliayah was never forgotten and that people just continued to honor her and just kind of keep her name out their in the public’s eye so that she’s not forgotten,” Cole said.
Over the past year, the foundation organized two Walks for Hope, one in their home of Hampshire County and one in Weston.
However, turnout was smaller than Cole had anticipated.
“That’s one of the things that we’ve kind of pulled back on,” he said. “We did two events last year, and it’s just so hard to get the public involved. The turnout was very small, so we just kind of pulled back on that this year because it’s a lot of work to get that organized.”
While Cole said the impact the Aliayah Lunsford Foundation has had thus far is small, it’s incredibly rewarding.
“We’re just kind of reevaluating what we want to do as a foundation and how can we maximize our effectiveness,” he said.
One area of success has been with starting “Aliayah’s Farm.”
The family currently owns two horses on 2.5 acres of land, with the hope of offering free equine therapy to assist children to cope with the stress of being in foster care or adoption systems.
“We’re in the process of getting them broke in,” Cole said. “That’s a lot of work, and we’re just trying to get to the point where we can move forward with that aspect of the foundation of being able to offer free trail rides, get exposure for kids around horses and things like that.”
Cole said he’s also writing a book to tell Aliayah’s story.
“There’s a lot to the story that never came out in the trial, and there’s just a lot to it so we feel like a book would really be able to present that information out there so that people get a true understanding of why did the girls wait five years and why did they finally come forward and all of that,” he said.
To learn more about the Aliayah Lunsford Foundation, click here.