Gracie Honeycutt

Gracie Honeycutt places a pinwheel on the grave of Virginia Abbott. Virginia was just shy of 10 months old when she died. Even though Gracie has no family connection to Virginia, she makes sure the toddler's grave is decorated every year.

Gracie Honeycutt was a busy young woman Friday afternoon, directing volunteers around the Somerset Cemetery and counting out pinwheels, handing them out to everyone willing to help.

In all, 612 pinwheels were placed on the graves of children, a project orchestrated and executed mainly by the 12-year-old Honeycutt.

In the middle of everything, though, Honeycutt took time out to place a special pinwheel on the grave of her inspiration: infant Virginia Abbott, who died in 1913.

Honeycutt created the Virginia Project, a way to honor those who died young and who may or may not have any family left to remember them, let alone decorate their graves.

Honeycutt chose October 16 as the day to decorate because it is Virginia’s birthday.

“She was 9 months old when she passed away, so she never got a birthday party. So, this is kind of like her birthday party,” Honeycutt said.

Honeycutt, a Southern Middle School seventh grader learned about Virginia’s grave as a youngster. At 5 years old, she went with her mother to the cemetery to decorate the graves of relatives. When she spotted Virginia’s gravestone, she asked her mother to put flowers out for her, too.

Over the years, she has continued to decorate the infant’s grave, and her passion to honor children grew into a project to decorate the graves of all babies and children within the cemetery.

She started a GoFundMe page for Virginia’s Project which has been widely supported. With the money raised so far, Honeycutt said she has enough to cover the expense of decorating with pinwheels this week, getting flowers to place on all of their graves next Memorial Day, and can almost cover getting pinwheels on Virginia’s birthday next year.

“If you had told me a few months ago that I would raise $1,600 and would be doing the whole cemetery, I never would have thought that,” she said. “It made me really happy that people care about something that I’m doing.”

She said she is still accepting donations as she wants to keep doing this year after year.

She’s surprised by the support she’s received already, she said. Just one hour into decorating and anywhere from 15 to 20 people already showed up to place pinwheels.

“I’m so appreciative of all they have done, and that they’re taking time out of their day, and they’re donating. It means a lot to me. And I’m so glad we can do this for these children.”

According to her mother, Tennille, the youngster took full charge of the project. Mom is there merely for transportation and to be the bodyguard, she said.

“I’m just really proud of her,” Tennille said. “She has taken a huge initiative that I don’t think many children would have done, and I know she’s really passionate about it. It means a lot to her.”

Among the volunteers helping Honeycutt Friday afternoon was Jalyn Murphy, who is part of the same dance team at Pep and Pizzazz.

She said she found out about the project when Honeycutt came in and told all of her dance friends about it.

“Once I heard more about it, I thought it’s just nice to put something out for the children, how they put flags for vets. No one ever thinks about the little children. To put pinwheels out, I just thought that was super sweet and nice.”

Another friend, 13-year-old Aubrey McDaniel, who knows Honeycutt through cheer, said she was happy to help out with the project.

She estimated that she had done around 45 pinwheels, and was getting ready to take more out into the cemetery.

“I feel so bad for the parents that lost their kids at such a young age,” she said.

Honeycutt, reflecting on how here fascination with Virginia led to all this, said, “I think about it like this: Her life is still so important, even though she died so young. She’s had a big impact on my life, even though I never met her.”

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