Play Ground of Dreams: A Fund Raising Success Story

By Spencer, Anne-Marie | Parks & Recreation, November 2002 | Go to article overview

Play Ground of Dreams: A Fund Raising Success Story


Spencer, Anne-Marie, Parks & Recreation


About 70 miles northwest of Atlanta, the small town of Rome, Ga., sprawls across 30 square miles, near the borders of Alabama and Tennessee. Located in the foothills of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, this attractive city of just less than 30,000 lies within a valley, encircled by hills and crossed by three rivers. Ridge Ferry Park, in the county's park system, boasts 60 acres with fishing and river access, picnic shelters, restrooms, natural and paved trails, volleyball courts, wetlands demonstration area and rowing/storage facility. Now, with the help of two determined mothers, the park is home to an extensive new playground system, designed to serve children of all ages. Just how did these women tackle the fundraising efforts needed to build a $250,000 park and play design?

In August 2001, Anne Paige Wilson and her friend Dawn Baker were sitting down to lunch one day, when Baker turned to Paige Wilson and said, "Do you know what? We're going to build a playground!" Paige Wilson was amazed at her friend's proposal, because she had been entertaining the same thought--creating a playground where her children could play within the community. Armed with determination, they set out to make the dream a reality.

First Steps

Their preliminary step was to meet with Bob Saylors, the town's director of parks and recreation. Paige Wilson laughs, "We like to joke that if he had any sense, the poor man would have thrown us out of his office that day. Here are these two moms telling him that we we're going to build this playground, and what's more, that we would have it completed by May! We were afraid if we had asked, rather than stated what we wanted to do, he would have said `No.' In our minds, that wasn't an option."

Saylors sensed their determination, but was concerned about community-built projects he had seen in the past. "Some of the similar playground sites I'd seen were made of wood, with poor construction and splintered components," says Saylors. "I didn't want that type of system, maintenance issues, nor liability factors, in our park." Saylors was familiar with a playground manufacturer located nearby., and suggested meeting with the company to discuss what would be needed to accomplish Paige Wilson's and Baker's vision. The women agreed, Saylors gave his blessing and the project was underway.

That initial meeting with Dominica Recreation, the local representatives for GameTime, helped the parties to outline the equipment, and the funds needed to install it. The women knew they wanted swings, slides, etc., but were surprised at the broad scope of equipment available. The playground representatives helped them design three distinct age-appropriate areas, with lots of play value. Saylors and the park's landscape architect helped design the overall layout.

"The company addressed issues like compliance, accessibility and the needs of different age groups," says Paige Wilson. "They also pointed out issues like sight lines, and the importance of adults being able to supervise the play and keep an eye on their children from any angle. As a mom, this was especially important to me. We told them in `mom' terms what we wanted; they figured out all the technical specifics of how to get it done. They made suggestions and gave us ideas on how we could save money. They were on hand for the installation, offering supervision and advice to the volunteer installers, and also discussed maintenance and vandalism with the park personnel." She adds, "We really loved their dinosaur slide, and so do the kids!"

Early Success a Boost

With a clear plan in hand, and an idea of the funds needed to complete it, the women set out to do some fast fund raising. As members of the Junior Service League of Rome, they decided that

the first phase of the campaign would concentrate on soliciting donations from the league. An annual cookbook sale had resulted in several thousand dollars, residing in certificates of deposit owned by the league. …

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