Amy Martin (423) 569-2366
Lou Ann Smith (865) 617-6492
Article published in the Independent Herald, Oneida, TN
There have been roadblocks. There have been dances. There have been t-shirt sales.
And while its space still sits empty at Oneida City Park, the founder of the Play With No Boundaries special needs playground says organizers are halfway to their fundraising target.
Amy Martin, who three years ago spearheaded the mission to give her son, Joseph, a safe place to play, says that Play With No Boundaries volunteers have raised $87,000, putting them halfway to their revised goal of $166,000.
The original target was $173,000. Several price increases have been encountered by Martin’s group since the planning stages began in 2010, but a savings was also realized when the playground received a non-profit status, allowing a grant to be utilized by the Tennessee Technology Center’s Oneida-Huntsville campus to provide a swing set system that will be incorporated as part of the playground.
What began as a personal mission for Martin has turned into a community project to give all special needs children a safe place to play.
“As a mother of four, my other three children loved to go to the park and play,” Martin said. “When Joseph began to walk, all the uneven surfaces, hills and barriers of traditional playground equipment made it almost impossible for me to take all my children to the park.”
Fundraising efforts were able to overcome obstacles from the very beginning. Play With No Boundaries’ first roadblock, in June 2011, raised over $6,000 despite the community’s persistent double-digit unemployment.
“That showed me that the people of Scott County wholeheartedly support this project,” Martin said.
Since that time, organizers have raised tens of thousands of dollars — and all without the involvement of any government entity. There have been fundraisers such as the Dancing Like the Stars event, which has turned into an annual fall event at Oneida High School’s Performing Arts Center. There have been donations from philanthropists, businesses and other individuals. Then there are the little things from motivated individuals that Martin says go a long way towards making the playground a reality.
“There have been several people who have taken their time to help promote the playground and raise awareness of the importance of play for all children,” she said. “Recently, Missy Young of Young’s Jewelry nominated Play With No Boundaries to the Ellen DeGeneres Show’s Facebook page for a donation to the playground.”
Whether that nomination will prove fruitful remains to be seen. Dozens of well-wishing Facebook users from the community have shared the nomination with their friends in an effort to create “likes,” which will make the project stand out among all the show’s nominees.
Once fundraising is completed, the tattered, seldom-used volleyball net just east of the park’s community center and gymnasium complex will be removed and the 5,175-square-foot playground erected. The entire playground will have a poured rubber surface for safety, and the play system will have double wide ramps to allow children in wheelchairs to pass each other without having to back down. The entire system will be designed for children of all abilities to play together as one without having playground barriers to separate them.
“This playground will not only provide state-of-the-art equipment for special needs children, but will give children the opportunity to develop self-respect and respect for others through the universal language of play,” Martin said.
As fundraising efforts continue, t-shirts and engraved brick pavers are being sold. There is also a website — www.playwithnoboundaries.org — and a Facebook page to help publicize the playground.