Tucson family honoring son through fundraiser for dog park

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A local family is turning tragedy into change, that many will be able to enjoy.  They want to raise enough money to renovate a dog park in honor of their son and his passion in life.

Dogs were Austin Fitzgerald's passion.

"Austin had a great love for his dogs. He had two huskies, one he rescued from PACC and another one," says Jennifer Smith, Austin's mother.

She says her son's dream was to form a husky rescue, but he got very sick. Austin passed away at just 19 years old in December, after a 17 day battle with acute lung failure. His dogs, Aoki and Zedd, never left his side

Jennifer says,"He ended up being so ill, that we moved him home and he came home with his dogs and they slept on his bed with him. He spent so much time with them. His first priority were his dogs more than himself,"

Becci Matheson, Austin's godmother, says "They would just lie with him and snuggle with him. The last moment in the hospital, they came in and just lay with him and licked him."

Now, family and loved ones are honoring Austin's memory by celebrating his great love for man's best friend. They are working with the Pima County Natural Resources to raise money to renovate the dog park inside Brandi Fenton Memorial Park.

"For the first phase we are going to do a large shaded cover, an obstacle course and some turf, benches, water for the dogs. The second phase, we hope to do a water pad, as a splash pad for the dogs, says Jennifer.

The money raised will go directly to renovations for the dog park. "I think he would absolutely love this. I feel like he is hopefully smiling on us now," Jennifer says.

Their goal is to raise $50,000 dollars and rename the park The Austin Fitzgerald Memorial Dog Park .

The fundraiser will be held on Saturday, August 23rd, which would of been Austin's 20th birthday. It will go from 4 to 6 p.m. at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park. The event will include a canine carnival, food trucks, and a silent auction. Donations can also be made online. Click here for more information.

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