IM this article to a friend!

December 13, 2002

Playgrounds are for angels

Lynn North Shore Sunday, MA - 13 Dec 2002

By Joel Beck / Staff Writer
Friday, December 13, 2002

In a world where technology is increasing every day, there are fewer and fewer activities in which people with physical disabilities can't participate. That's why three Peabody mothers, Eva Quinlan, Mary Bruzzese and Erica Barrett, were stunned when they looked around the North Shore and found no playground that was accessible for their children.

The mothers, all of whom have young children that use wheelchairs, decided to do something about it.

"There's nothing, there is nowhere to take them to play," says Barrett, whose 2 1/2-year-old son Ryan was born with an undiagnosed disability where he has no head control and cannot walk or crawl. "You sit back and you watch them watching the other children and it's very sad."

Last summer, the trio set out to change what they saw as a glaring problem. Calling their initiative "Adventures for Angels," the mothers have taken the first steps toward constructing the very first public handicapped-accessible playground on the North Shore.

Mayor Michael Bonfanti and the city of Peabody have already donated a site for the playground at Lt. Ross Memorial Park on Johnson Street, and Vinny Serino with Century 21 deAN Associates is sponsoring the women's efforts.

Barrett explains that other than a similar playground that exists at the Beverly School for the Deaf, there are no facilities on the North Shore like the one they plan to build. The playground will include swing sets with special harnesses, ramps and slides that are wheelchair accessible and even sensory activities for blind and deaf children.

Quinlan says her 8-year-old son Tim, who has a tracheotomy tube, can't even go to a regular playground because of the risk of being around dust or sand. Once the new playground is built, she says Tim will finally be able to feel a little bit more like the rest of his peers.

Quinlan also stresses that they aren't just building the playground for their own children to enjoy. They want to make sure kids from all over the take advantage of it.

"This is not really about me, Erica or Mary," Quinlan says. "This is about all of the children throughout the North Shore. This is about giving them equal opportunity to have a play area where they can be integrated.

"The area that's being built is a universal playground, which means anyone can use it; (it's) not specifically designed just for handicapped children," she adds. "It's wheelchair-usable, which is a little bit different from most of the parks in the area."

Now that the project is under way, Quinlan, Bruzzese and Barrett know that the toughest stretch of road still lies ahead. They still have to raise the money to build it. Quinlan says the average cost of building a handicapped-accessible playground is about $151,000, and she estimates they will end up spending slightly more than that at $165,000.

Having just started raising money within the last few weeks, the women have already raised $2,000 and are planning on holding their first fund raiser this Sunday with a holiday craft fair at the Higgins Middle School in Peabody.

Quinlan says all three mothers have different goals for when they think the playground will begin construction. Abruzzese says she is shooting for this spring while Barrett says she would like to see it happen in the summer. Realistically, Quinlan says it likely won't happen until this fall, but she says they are determined to make it happen.

"The bottom line is the park will be built in 2003," Quinlan says. "That is what we're going to do, no matter what we have to do to get it done."

To contribute, make checks payable to North Shore Arc, noting "Adventures for Angels-965" in the memo area, and mail them to Eva Quinlan, P.O. Box 20, Peabody, MA 01960. To offer volunteer help or for more information, call 978-375-3026.

© Copyright by and Herald Interactive Advertising Systems, Inc.