Imagine taking the tragedy of your life and turning it into a blessing. It took endless prayers, buckets of tears and 14 years, but one Oklahoma woman has done just that.
We went to Skiatook to hear her story.
"More valuable than a diamond, more precious than a pearl."
Wilma Watson spoke those words to her Emerald every night for three years, nine months and 15 days. And then she was gone.
We first met Watson almost a year after Emerald's death from a rare amoeba contracted at an Oklahoma lake. Her grief was still raw and painful to witness.
"I was on top of her yelling, ‘Don't you leave me baby, don't you leave me. You stay with your mama,'" Watson said.
In the years that followed, Watson went on a crusade to warn others about the dangers in Oklahoma waters.
She counseled parents, spoke to health professionals, and clung to her faith, but her real mission was yet to come.
The Emerald Academy opened just this year, and already it is home base for more than 200 girls and boys, training in gymnastics, dance and cheer.
But beyond physical challenges, in an area with one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation, and in an age when many kids flounder without family support, Watson has set out to strengthen these children in body, mind and spirit.
"If you're working really hard on your mind and being focused and being strong, you're not going to get intimidated or manipulated as easily as you would," Watson said. "And they've embraced it, I think. Honestly, everybody was ready."
And her dream is to reach as many kids as possible. Her doors are open to the developmentally disabled and ten percent of her proceeds are automatically set aside for scholarships.
"I had a mother about two weeks ago, I offered her a scholarship. She said, ‘You don't have to do that.' I said, ‘You don't understand. I've waited my whole life to be able to do that, to be the one who says yes we can,'" Watson said.
Watson said she sometimes imagines her own Emerald on this floor. She would have graduated high school this year.
But she has her son, Garrett, and daughter, Zoe, here, and a roomful of girls filled with Emerald's spirit. For the first time in 14 years, for Wilma Watson, this August 9, the anniversary of her daughter's death, will be a day of peace.
"This year, I'm good. I'm good. I'm good knowing that tomorrow she would have served a purpose, and it was much greater than she will ever know," Watson said.
Emerald Watson's case was the first amoeba death recorded in Oklahoma.
But unfortunately, not the last.
Two Tulsa boys died in the summer of 2005 after playing in a splash pad at Mohawk Park.
Just last week, a 6-year-old Oklahoma boy died after swimming in the Red River.