Story by Kristina Hoti
The Warwick Playground Dreams Committee, along with the Village of Warwick and hundreds of attendees celebrated the ribbon-cutting of the new ADA-accessible playground in Stanley-Deming Park on Wed., May 22.
The stunning new park is a wonderland for children of all abilities, boasting a castle fort, apple tree house, a variety of slides, swings, musical instruments, a zip-line, a rock-climbing wall, rope climbing wall, wheelchair accessible merry-go-round, and much more.
Nearly three years in the making, the playground began as an idea by Hannelore Chambers, the Warwick Playground Dreams president. She imagined a park that would excite and engage the imaginations of children of all ages and abilities, while simultaneously exercising their bodies.
Chambers engaged the services of Play By Design, a playground architecture company that designs structures that are safe, affordable, and all-inclusive. In the years that followed, this “grass-roots organization, of a group of moms and a few rad dads,” as Chambers called it in her speech, was formed. The Warwick Valley Central School District was involved so that the children of the community could lend their ideas and wishes to the design of the new playground.
Through the tireless efforts on the part of Chambers and the WPD Committee in organizing fundraisers, applying for grants, collaborating with Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard, the Warwick Village Board of Trustees, and the Warwick DPW, who all gave their full support and assistance, over $350,000 was raised.
The Warwick DPW were at the playground throughout the week in their capacity with the DPW, however they continually volunteered their time long into the evening, long after their shifts were complete, to contribute further to the Build.
However, funds were not all that was needed for this playground. Warwick’s new playground was built using a community build method, which meant that all tools and labor were donated and loaned for the seven-day-long Build Week. Hundreds of volunteers came out to assist with the digging, raking, sawing, hammering, and drilling that was needed to build the playground.
Mayor Newhard addressed the large crowd, gently quieting a group of excited children gathered who could barely contain their shrieks of excitement. He began by thanking the WPD Committee members who were gathered beside him and all of the volunteers who contributed to all aspects of the project. He also thanked the Warwick Village Board and the Village DPW Supervisor, Mike Moser.
“Government seems like a lot of rules and laws, but they have the ability to spur something forward, and to make something happen, and they understood this vision and they understood this dream,” said Newhard.
WPD Vice President Megan Cardenas also spoke to crowd, particularly of the commitment shown by Chambers.
Cardenas said, “She has never given a day up in the last two and a half years…many of our community members helped a lot, but there were times when we couldn’t be there. Hanne never, ever, ever faltered.”
Cardenas’ son, Derek, has Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type-1, which is the severest form of this devastating childhood neurological disease, known as the children’s form of ALS. Most children with Derek’s disabilities will never go to a playground, but on Wed. May 22, Derek got to go into the tractor that he has been dreaming to play in for months.
The WPD committee presented Chambers with gifts to show their gratitude: a foot massage brought a thankful chuckle, a plaque in the group’s logo, made from the leftover building materials by Tony Donato, of F&M Designs, brought tears.
Scott and Tim Beiling, of Roe Brothers Lumber & Hardware Inc., were some of the many contributing businesses and volunteers who attended the ribbon cutting. Scott and Tim also assisted the WPD Committee with organizing their tools, encouraged their employees to come volunteer during build week, and were there themselves, every day, lending their expertise and energy to the project.
Scott said, “I haven’t done something this special…and moving, and exciting to be a part of, in…really, ever, quite honestly…there was just no way we weren’t going to be a part of it.”
After Mayor Newhard, Chambers, and Cardenas spoke, some children stepped forward in a very special tribute to their moms, dads, and community as whole, to say “thank you” in their own words.
At long last, Chambers invited the children over to the colorful crepe ribbon that was the only thing separating them from the playground of their dreams. With a raucous cheer, they burst through the ribbon at the word “Go!” The playground very quickly filled with children and adults, who remained playing well into the warm evening.