Fundraiser brings more fun to playground

July 18, 2009 3:40:46 PM PDT
A playground for children with special needs got a big boost today.There were games, food, and, even, Eagles Cheerleaders, in Medford for a Family Fun Day. The goal of the festivities was to thousands of thousands in order to expand the Fort Medford Playground.

Sales of raffle tickets went fast.

"Everybody wants to contribute what they can and it just helps the community continue to grow," Howard Thomas of Medford said.

The new portion of the playground would be a first for Burlington County, as it would be fully accessible to disabled children.

According to the mother of 7-year-old Abigail, this means a lot to her daughter who has cerebral palsy.

"She is here because of this phenomenal playground that is going to go up for children like her because she can't play in a typical playground," Eowyn West said.

Playgrounds do not come cheap as the township paid $175,000 for new equipment; another $100,000 must be raised privately for installation including a wheelchair friendly rubberized surface.

"We have doublewide ramps so two wheelchairs can pass comfortably," recreation director Beth Portocalis said.

Last year at this time, the hope was for the new part of the playground to be up and operating by last spring, but then Wall Street tanked, the economy stumbled, and fundraising stalled.

"While we did well and we had raised $40,000 to $50,000 on our own, we still had the $100,000 goal," Portocalis said.

Medford's blight caught the attention of a well connected clown, Ronald McDonald. The McDonald House Charity came through with a $20,000 check.

"We wanted to partner with something that we thought there was a community doing something really wonderful," McDonald's operator Terry Smith said.

With the fundraiser going strong, the hope for Abigail and others is that they will be enjoying the new playground by the time school starts in the fall.