Published 6:31 pm Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Norma Turner, Austin Turner, 11, and Angel Tillery prepare to slide at Troy's new Miracle League Playground on Wednesday.

Norma Turner, Austin Turner, 11, and Angel Tillery prepare to slide at Troy’s new Miracle League Playground on Wednesday. PHOTO BY ROBBYN BROOKS

Miracle League Playground officially opens

It was a process 20 months in the making, but on Wednesday at 10 a.m., the Troy Miracle League Playground opened to the public.

Troy Parks and Recreation Director Dan Smith served as the master of ceremonies for the dedication and thanked all the community members who made the playground a possibility.

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“I want to thank all of you for your continued support and efforts,” Smith said. “Today, we are here to gather for the formal dedication and ribbon cutting for the park.”

“There are a lot of things you can do with your life,” Smith said, “but few are more valuable than making a change in the life of a child.”

The official dedication was the final step in a process that began with a single e-mail 20 months ago.

The playground started as the brainchild of two Troy University administrators, Judy Fulmer and Ivan Meritt. Fulmer sent an e-mail to Meritt about a possible grant opportunity that would allow for Troy to build a special needs playground.

Meritt then contacted Smith, and the project began to take shape.

“We went to the Troy City Council with the proposal for the park,” “Meritt said. “Once they gave us the green light, we were able to set up a steering committee which really served as the leadership for the project.”

With the project tentatively approved by the city, the next step in the process was to secure funding for the project.

“Our initial goal was to raise $200,000 for the park,” Meritt said. “Ultimately we wound up raising $250,000.

“We were able to receive a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant for $50,000, with the city of Troy matching another $50,000,” Meritt said. “The rest of the money was raised through a diversity of approaches, notably through contributions from local individuals and businesses.”

Smith noted how the completion of the playground was only possible with the support of the entire community.

“This is a perfect example of partnership between municipalities, education, businesses, and individuals,” Smith shared

Construction began on the playground on Aug. 1, and following the ceremony, the playground was open to the public.

Mayor Jason Reeves expressed his pride in being able to serve a community that can come together to make projects such as the playground happen.

“My heart is very full today,” Reeves said. “All of you made this happen. You can accomplish anything when you don’t care who gets the credit.”

A few children who participate in the Troy Miracle League baseball program were on hand for the event and even helped in cutting the ceremonial ribbon. The playground seemed to be a hit with the children and their parents.

Nine-year-old Caleb Brown was in attendance with his parents Shatoria Daniel and Aubrey Brown. Brown was so enthralled with the new playground that he barely stopped to share his thoughts on the new equipment.

He did spare enough time to share that he thought the new playground was “fine” and that his favorite part was the “red monkey bars.” He also said that he plans to come to the playground a lot.

Brown’s mother, Shatoria Daniel, thought that the playground was a great addition to Troy.

“It gives all the kids an opportunity to play,” Daniel said. “Miracle League gave him a chance to actually play baseball.”

“I think he’ll like it here,” Daniel said. “All these children relate to each other and the park gives them a place where they will not feel left out.”

The new playground was also a success with 11-year-old Austin Turner and his mother Norma.

“I like the see-saw, swings, slides, all of it,” Austin said. “In baseball, I like to hit the ball and run.”

“It means a lot to have this playground,” Norma Turner said. “We can come and enjoy it and not have to worry about anything. The new park is more spread out and safer in general. It’s more open and not as crowded.”

Even though the park is open to the public, there will still be more work done on the park in the future. The ultimate goal for the park is to extend the Sportsplex walking trail to the park and to add in fencing, a pavilion, trees, and more open spaces.

However, there is currently no timetable for these improvements to be put in place.