‘Bark in the Park’ raises funds for animals in honor of two young Utahns killed in crash

Posted at 9:30 PM, May 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-20 23:30:06-04

ROY, Utah -- Two friends killed in a car accident last summer were remembered through a special fundraiser Saturday.

From cheering on dogs as they strut the runway, to checking out engines under the hoods of antique cars: The inaugural Bark in the Park was more than just a fundraiser, it was a mix of some of the things Madi Haan and Tyler Christianson loved.

"We wanted to do something positive because we feel like time just kind of stopped, and we didn't have time to do anything for these kids and they deserve it," said Madi's mother, Jocelyn Castillo.

Madi and Tyler were killed in car crash in Roy on June 30 when 16-year-old Marilee Gardner purposely rear ended them in a failed suicide attempt.

"We didn't want to do anything on June 30 to remember them on the day that we lost them, we wanted to remember the day they came into our lives which is close to their birthday," said Tyler's step-mother, Marnie Hancock.

Tyler would have turned 20 on May 22, and Madi would have turned 21 on June 3.

"He was a dear soul and he's missed every day," said Michele Christianson, Tyler's aunt.

"He was there every day as a big brother," said Hunter Christianson, Tyler's brother.

Madi and Tyler's families said the best way to remember them is to give back, so all of the money raised from the car show, dog show and raffle will be donated to local animal rescue organizations, Hope's Rescue and Herding Haven.

"This is something they felt passionate about, animals, and we just wanted something kind of to bring everybody together," Castillo said.

Best in Show ended up going to a dog named Forrest Gump, who can catch pine cones in his mouth despite having two prosthetic feet. It's dogs like Forrest that will be helped because of Saturday's fundraiser.

"Herding Haven, we focus on dogs with special needs," said Kathie Beals. "We are a small rescue and to be recognized and to be part of this is amazing."

The families say getting to play with all these dogs would have been the perfect birthday present for Madi and Tyler.

"She would be right in the middle of it, she would be overwhelmed, she would be extremely happy," Castillo said.

As for Marilee Gardner, she is being charged with two counts of first degree murder. She is scheduled to appear back in court next week. Gardner is being tried as an adult.