Both tears and smiles accompanied the dedication Saturday of a maple tree and bench to the memory of a 13-year-old Elmhurst girl whose death from an allergic reaction a year ago inspired a newly enacted law aimed at saving others in similar circumstances.
The family of Annie LeGere joined friends and local officials at Sandburg Middle School to celebrate the young namesake of the new law, which allows police departments to equip and train officers to use epinephrine auto-injectors -- commonly known as EpiPens -- to save people from life-threatening allergic reactions.
The ceremony included a moment of silence for Annie, and then a round of applause for the other lives the new law will save.
"This is bittersweet for me because I no longer have Annie," said the girl's mother, Shelly LeGere.
But as the leading advocate for the bill signed into law on Aug. 5, the grieving mother said only the thought of achieving such a great good for others could make such a loss more tolerable.
However, the skyrocketing price of EpiPens -- which made headlines of its own this week -- laid out a new mission for the LeGere family. Shelly called it "completely unacceptable" that not everyone can afford them.
"I don't think it's at all right," she said of the price hike. "I don't understand it."
Her husband, John, focused on that specifically during his own public remarks.
"I want to work with people to address that situation," he said.
Many of the young friends Annie knew at Sandburg Middle School attended the ceremony, the pain of their loss clearly not forgotten.
Republican state Sen. Chris Nybo of Elmhurst, who'd co-sponsored the bill with Democratic state Rep. Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg, gave six of Annie's closest friends the pens Gov. Bruce Rauner had used to sign it into law.
Though on Saturday the newly transplanted tree was the smallest on the grounds of the school Annie LeGere had loved, it is expected to eventually grow to be the largest.