In a town near and dear to our heart, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, there is a beautiful park. The park is home to a bandshell, a small ball field, a gazebo, historic monuments paying tribute to fallen war heroes... and a playground. Right across the street is the library where we spend a lot of our time. We've never been to the playground. I'm sure it's lovely.
Gavin's school where he made friends, made progress, took chances and finally took steps is in Phoenixville. Do you know that one of the first settlers to this area would sit in his home on a hill and look down on this yet to be named town and fantasize about the old Egyptian legend of the Phoenix bird? You know the story - how the Phoenix dies in a burst of flames only to rise from the ashes in glory? Isn't it ironic that Gavin would make his progress in and leave his mark on this town? Our own "Phoenix" story.
"A mythical bird that never dies, the phoenix flies far ahead to the front, always scanning the landscape and distant space. It represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it. The phoenix, with its great beauty, creates intense excitement and deathless inspiration."
- The Feng Shui Handbook, feng shui Master Lam Kam Chuen
The park in the center of town, Reeves Park, was named after the Reeves family who owned an iron mill named "Phoenix Iron Company." It is no coincidence to me that the Reeves family was known for their inclusive hiring policy. They hired immigrants fleeing from war and strife in Europe... people from all different races and religions... and those who had fled from slavery via the underground railroad. Their family philosophy became their company culture - "At Phoenix - It's The People That Make The Difference."
That philosophy has trickled down to the town that was aptly named Phoenixville. The people are what makes this town. I have experienced this first hand. This town embraced Gavin and supported our family. Many children that are still in Gavin's old school in town are benefitting from his Trust Project. Some are even making incredible strides using Gavin's walker and stander and more. This is an amazing town.
So, back to that park...
I used to avoid parks that couldn't accommodate Gavin as he got older and more aware. It hurt my heart to think of him feeling left out - and I hated the thought of him watching his brother play from the sidelines. But I also knew that accessible playgrounds were a fortune and didn't expect them everywhere we went. It was what it was. So as we often parked in front of Reeves Park to go into the library, I would sigh as I remembered that this wasn't a park I felt comfortable taking Gavin to. And what a bummer that was - in a town that loved him so much.
Just recently, Brian, Hope and I were headed to the library when we passed the park. Upon seeing the playground, Brian asked, "Mom - that isn't a 'Gavin' kind of playground, is it?" and I sadly answered that it wasn't.
You know I don't believe in coincidences by now, right?
(If not - I don't.)
Just a few days after Brian's comment, I saw something on my Facebook newsfeed and just knew I had to get involved. And I knew that you would help.
The local Kiwanis club in Phoenixville has entered a "Legacy of Play" contest. Kiwanis International has partnered with Landscape Structures for this contest and the Phoenixville Kiwanis club has entered. If they win, Landscape Structures will give them $25,000 in playground equipment which will be installed in conjunction with their club's "Kiwanis One Day" event which, no coincidence, is held in April. If the Phoenixville Kiwanis club wins, they will build an all abilities playground right in Reeves Park.
I can tell you right now - having an all abilities park in this town would be a game changer. Children from Gavin's own school would benefit. Local physical and occupational therapists could utilize this playground for fun therapy in the sunshine. My own children could play on this playground and feel comforted that their big brother would be happily playing beside them if he were alive. And my anxiety and heart sick feeling every time I pass this park on my way to the playground... the market... or church will cease. It would be a game changer - for so many. Not to mention, how beautiful would it be to continue the inclusive legacy of the Reeves family who were known for their compassion and respect for the outliers in their town.
Can you see where I'm going with this?
I'm not looking for money. I'm looking for thirty seconds after you finish reading. I know one thing for sure. Between me and all of you, we can all vote once to get Phoenixville in the finals and in front of the judges. The ten submissions with the highest number of votes by noon (EDT) on May 27th (this Friday!) will become finalists. Then it will be up to a panel of judges to select the winning club. Do I hope that the judges see this post and feel the passion I have to make an accessible playground a part of the history of Phoenixville? And in a small way, part of Gavin's story in this town? You bet I do. Do I hope they will feel inspired by one little boy and his giant legacy and choose this town? Wholeheartedly.
It can't be underestimated how transformative it can be when children have a proper place to play. Please - open your hearts to the children of Phoenixville. Show them that love from strangers can help them rise...and shine...just like the Phoenix itself.
Here is all you need to do:
Click THIS LINK to get to the voting page. When you scroll down it should start with "The Kiwanis Club of Phoenixville...." Scroll down further and click the orange VOTE button! Again, voting closes this Friday, May 27th, at noon and you can vote once a day between now and then. You can watch the page to see the ten finalists and the ultimate winner (Phoenixville, of course) - but rest assured that I will keep you posted!
Thank you, as always, for caring about our little family... and this little town that loved Gavin!!