Milltown child remembered with naming of park in her honor

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BY KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

MILLTOWN — Ariella Hopkins may have only been six years old when she passed away last June, but she captivated everyone she came in contact with.

“It didn’t matter if you were an adult or a child, she talked with everyone,” Bobby Hopkins said as he reminisced about his daughter.

Born Feb. 12, 2009, Ariella was Bobby and Lisa Hopkin’s Valentine’s Day present that year, their first and only child.

“She was our little Valentine,” Hopkins said.

With the help of family and friends, Ariella’s name is being kept alive, which Hopkins said is all he and his wife could ask for in their time of mourning and remembrance of their daughter.

“My wife and I are overwhelmed with an amazing effort to keep our daughter’s name alive,” he said.

A pocket park on Herbert Avenue, near where Ariella lived with her family and one she frequented, has been dedicated as Ariella Hopkins Park; a Toys for Tots drive this past holiday season was named after the youngster and collected some 1,184 toys; and on May 14, there will be an Ariella Hopkins Day, sponsored by the American Legion Joyce Kilmer Post 25, with more details to come.

“Ariella was only six years old, but all this is happening because of her,” said Hopkins, who said that it is his goal to continue telling Ariella’s story and keep her memory alive.

It was a few days after kindergarten graduation at St. Bartholomew School on June 12, 2015, when Ariella started to not feel well.

“It happened so fast,” Hopkins said. “It was just a freak, one-in-a-million chance of what Ariella had. She was throwing up and not eating.”

The Hopkins brought their daughter to the doctor, and after a couple of visits, they were told Ariella had a virus and to let it run its course. On Father’s Day, June 21, Hopkins said he and his wife knew something was wrong.

“We brought Ariella to Saint Peter’s University Hospital,” he said, noting that this was the hospital where she was born. “That’s when they saw that Ariella was dragging her leg when she was walking, and they did a CAT scan.”

A CAT scan showed an abscess in Ariella’s brain due to strep throat.

“The doctors said they would be able to drain the abscess through an operation,” he said.

Ariella came out in good condition after the operation and was to stay a few days for observation, Hopkins said.

“However, something went wrong, and she had to go in for another operation, and she died of a brain hemorrhage,” he said. “It was June 24. Doctors said it was rare to see this in such a young child.”

Hopkins said Ariella was a smart girl, reading at a second-grade level, having conversations with people at diners they went to, and being very energetic with her friends.

“She was non-stop and never wanted to sleep,” he said. “She loved to be outside.”

Hopkins said a dedication of Ariella Hopkins Park will be held in the spring, and more details about Ariella Hopkins Day in May will be announced closer to the date.