All children's playground on it's way

Thursday, June 19, 2008
By Mark S. Porter
of the Montclair Times

With a radiant smile sweeping across her face, Lily Vakili rejoiced: "It’s just blossomed."

Vakili’s joyous demeanor was shared by three women who joined her in Edgemont Memorial Park, aglow at the promise of the "All-Children’s Playground" being constructed.

Eight years ago, Montclair residents Dorothy Schattner, her daughter Helaine Schattner and Susan Irby proposed the construction of a recreational area in town in which children and adults with disabilities could enjoy playing on rides with "able" kids and grownups.

There have been eight years of discussions, analyses and, eventually, approval of the All-Children’s Playground.

During the past year, there have been penny drives, musical performances, a walkathon, bake sales and a CD offered for sale to raise funds to construct the specialized playing area in the Edgemont Park location of an existing playground.

Tomorrow morning, Friday, all of the advocacy and fundraising activities will prove their worth.

The All-Children’s Playground Kickoff Ceremony, featuring key activists, supporters and municipal officials, will occur at 11 a.m. in Edgemont’s playground area.

Funding for the All-Children’s Playground has suddenly reached the construction-cost requisite, pushed over the top through substantive contributions by two anonymous donors. "There were some amazingly generous donors," Vakili said.

The playground is estimated to cost about $400,000. The Township Council appropriated $200,000, and the state provided a $50,000 grant. Donors and fundraising activities have provided the remaining $150,000, along with some funds necessary for maintenance and upgrades of the specialized playground equipment.

Susan Irby said every resident should rejoice when the playground opens.

"We focus on the ways we can enrich one another’s lives," Irby said.

Along with their smiles, the four women gathered in Edgemont Park sported black "Parents Who Rock" T-shirts. Joining Irby, Vakili and Leslie Kunkin was Alma Schnieder, founder of Parents Who Rock, and a hyper-committed advocate for the All-Children’s Playground.

Performing members of the Montclair-based Parents Who Rock contributed nearly two dozen songs for a CD, "Go Play Outside," with revenues from the $10 discs donated to fund construction of the All-Children’s Playground. Parents Who Rock initiated or collaborated in several fundraisers throughout Montclair to generate funds. The CD is available for purchase in numerous local businesses.

"Between donors who donated services and volunteers at all the fundraisers, we had well over 100 volunteers," Schneider said.

This past Saturday, during Mayor Ed Remsen’s speech dedicating a memorial in Anderson Park to famed Montclair High School lacrosse coaches and physical education teachers Gil Gibbs and Homer Robinson, the mayor cited tomorrow’s ceremony: "We’ve worked very hard and we’re really excited" about the onset of the playground.

"The contract is signed. The design is approved," Vakili said. "It should be built this year."

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