FORT PIERCE, Fla. — It has been almost two years since a St. Lucie County teenager, Layne Chesney, lost her life following a more than 16-month battle to recover from severe burns.
Chesney was 14 years old when she threw gasoline on a bonfire on New Year's Eve in 2017, causing burns to more than 90% of her body.
She died 17 months later in May of 2019.
Fort Pierce City Commissioner Jeremiah Johnson wants to have the softball fields at the Lawnwood Sports Complex named after Layne Chesney.
Chesney loved softball, and the fields at Lawnwood were considered her home fields.
Johnson said her story of strength and determination inspired people around the community, other states, and other countries. That is why he says it is fitting to honor Chesney with the naming of the fields.
Johnson wrote in a letter to community members, “It is my prayer and my hope that we will continue to remember Layne for her uncanny ability to light up a room with her smile… to shock the world with her talents… to be a strength to others whether on the field or not.”
The St. Lucie County Historical Board will first review Johnson’s application Tuesday at 4 p.m. If accepted by that committee, the Board of County Commissioners will consider the application at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Johnson hopes to be able to dedicate the park in honor of Chesney on her team's senior night later in April.
“It’s nice to know she’s not been forgotten, and she’ll never be forgotten,” said Layne’s mother, Leigh Ann Wirz Chesney.
Monday, Leigh Ann visited her daughter’s old softball fields for the first time since Chesney was hospitalized.
“It brings back memories, good and bad,” Wirz Chesney said. “Layne was funny on the field. We’d often just see her dancing in between plays, but don’t get me wrong. She was totally serious. When she was on the field she was out there to win.”
Wirz Chesney says Layne would have turned 18 last week. She would be graduating high school this year. Her softball team still honors Layne’s memory at practice and games.
“She will always be a part of the softball family,” Wirz Chesney said. “I know the girls missed her the past couple of years without her being here.”
Wirz Chesney laughs that Layne would have been proud to have the fields named after her. She hopes it will inspire future players to be strong, competitive, and love the game.
“Hopefully she’ll continue to inspire people for many years to come,” Wirz Chesney said.