Our recent weekend getaway to Bodega Bay was nowhere near our first time visiting the quaint seaside town, but it had been at least eight years since our last visit, so I decided to do some research to find all the recommended things to do in Bodega Bay. Along with many beaches, shops, and restaurants, I discovered the Children’s Bell Tower. Dedicated in 1996, this wasn’t necessarily something new to Bodega Bay, but after reading its history, I wanted the whole family to visit it.
As we walked along the short path to the bell tower, the wind kicked up, a gust blew through, and the collection of mismatched bells rang quietly as if to say, “Remember why we’re here.”
Surrounded by cypress and eucalyptus trees, the Children’s Bell Tower is an 18 foot tall, three-tier, steel sculpture with 140 bells. It memorializes 7-year-old Bodega Bay resident Nicholas Green who was killed during a highway robbery in 1994 while vacationing with his family in Italy.
The Nicholas Effect
During their vacation, the Green family’s car was mistaken for a jeweler’s car. Armed robbers attempting to hijack the car, shot and killed Nicholas in the process. His parents, Reg and Maggie Green, donated their son’s organs and corneas. Their decision helped seven Italian patients, including four teenagers, and inspired a nation. Even the president and the prime minster paid their respects.
The Green’s generosity spurred new conversations about organ donation throughout Italy and resulted in what is now called the Nicholas Effect — a dramatic increase in organ donation levels that had previously been among the lowest in Europe. From parks, schools, and gardens, to monuments, squares, and streets, more than 120 locations across Italy were named in honor of Nicholas and his gifts.
The Children’s Bell Tower
Bay Area sculptor Bruce Hasson conceived of the memorial bell tower after reading about the crime in a newspaper. The thirty inch center bell was made by the prestigious Marinelli foundry that has been forging papal bells for over a thousand years. Blessed by Pope John Paul II, the bell is inscribed with the names of all seven organ recipients. The other bells were donated by Italian schools, churches, farms, ships, and mines and flown to the United States by the Italian Air Force.
Special clappers fabricated to catch the sea breezes ensure that even in high winds, the bells toll softly. According to the The Nicholas Green Foundation, its delicacy reflects both the preciousness and fragility of young life. Many families visit it to give thanks for their children, others find some solace for a loss.
Know Before You Go
- The Children’s Bell Tower is located behind the Bodega Bay Community Center at 2255 Highway 1, Bodega Bay, California 94923 in Sonoma County.
- From the main road, enter the Community Center parking lot and follow the dirt road past the community garden to the parking lot. A short dirt path will take you to the Children’s Bell Tower.
The Coastal Prairie Trail
The Coastal Prairie Trail is a 1.1 mile bike and pedestrian trail that connects the Bodega Bay Community Center and Keefe Avenue. The accessible trail passes the 18-foot Children’s Bell Tower and features coastal views, connections to Sonoma Coast State Park, and access to South Salmon Creek Beach.