Girl recalled at dedication

AMHERST – The mood was both solemn and cheerful Saturday morning at the dedication of the new Bean Recreational Fields as families shared stories of an Amherst Middle School student who died last year.

One of the fields at the complex on Boston Post Road was dedicated to the memory of McKayla Geisinger, a Mont Vernon girl who died suddenly while on a seventh-grade class trip in March 2007. Geisinger was an avid soccer player and a member of the Amherst Soccer Club. After her death, Geisinger’s teammates approached the school board to get one of the fields named after her.

Geisinger’s father, Greg, said he was grateful for the students’ efforts. He said it was a combination of efforts from friends, family and the town that helped him, his wife, Maureen, and their daughter, Amanda, get through the grieving process.

“We know that a few years from now, Maureen and I will be able to come here and remember her playing soccer,” said Geisinger. “We now have a marker to remember her.”

The town began work on the nine-acre complex 18 months ago. The board of selectmen contributed $250,000 of tax money for construction of the fields. The project cost approximately $450,000, and the remainder of the funds was raised by the Amherst Recreation Department through donations from private businesses.

The Bean Recreational Fields – named after the Bean family, which once owned the land – are four playing surfaces located in front of Amherst Middle School and Souhegan High School. They include a 60-foot baseball diamond and two full-size soccer fields. Field 1, the full-size soccer field that’s closest to the road, was the one dedicated to Geisinger on Saturday.

“I feel since her passing, I know her a lot more,” said Porter Dodge, principal of Amherst Middle School. “It took us all by surprise, obviously. We didn’t know how to deal with it. It made all of us, as parents, go home and hug our kids a little tighter.”

Geisinger’s teammate, Kathryn Dillon, also spoke at the ceremony. Standing with her teammates next to an engraved granite stone in the middle of mulch landscaped in the shape of a heart, she expressed the team’s respect for Geisinger.

The dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony was part of a family field day, which included the annual Amherst Town Olympics.