LAMOINE, Maine — Five years after a group of residents began raising money to honor the memory of a local girl, Jina’s Gym has been dedicated at the elementary school.
The gym at Lamoine Consolidated School has been renamed after Janina Haslam, who was killed in June 2005 when she was struck by a car while bicycling along Route 184.
Between 100 and 150 people attended the Sept. 2 dedication of the gymnasium, according to her grandfather Bill Neleski. Janina — or Jina, as she was known — had graduated from the school six days before the fatal accident. She was 14 years old.
“We initially wanted to build a new gym,” Neleski said Friday. Jina’s friends and family managed to raise $230,000 for the project, and ended up spending $85,000 to help renovate the gym instead, he said. More than 500 individuals and businesses donated money and services to the project.
Neleski said new acoustic tile was put on the ceiling of the gym, which also functions as the school cafeteria and auditorium and each year hosts Lamoine’s annual town meeting. New speakers were installed, new mats mounted on walls behind the basketball backboards, and a new scoreboard mounted on the wall. The gym interior got a new paint job and a new floor was installed.
Neleski said the gym had not held interschool games for years because of a condensation problem that made the floor wet. Along with other improvements at the school that have been paid for through local taxes, the condensation problem has been fixed, enabling the Lamoine Lions to resume holding home basketball games at the school.
“We couldn’t use it before,” he said.
A bronze memorial plaque for Jina and her former basketball jersey have been mounted on the gym wall, he said.
Neleski said that, as for the remainder of the project funds, $25,000 has been given to the Down East YMCA in Ellsworth and the more than $100,000 left will be used to establish a scholarship fund.
“We’re not sure yet,” Neleski said when asked how the scholarship fund would be set up. Jina loved animals and wanted to study veterinary medicine, he said, so it might be reserved for students who want to become veterinarians. He said the funds would be administered by an outside firm.
“She was an animal advocate, which a lot of kids are, but she was a real special person,” Neleski said of his granddaughter.
Jina’s mother, Patti Haslam, said Jina enjoyed working at Seal Cove Farm, where she helped take care of the goats. Jina enjoyed playing basketball at the gym and was a cheerleader, she said.
Haslam said the project has meant a lot to her family, and to the community.
“It was a way to keep us all focused,” Haslam said. “It was joy to see all the people come out [to the dedication].”
Haslam said that, since her daughter’s death, she has come to associate dragonflies and butterflies with Jina’s spirit. During last week’s ceremony, a dragonfly was flying over Bill Neleski’s head as he spoke to the dedication attendees, she said.
“I think she’d be very proud that we were able to accomplish this,” Haslam said of Jina.