DAPHNE – Despite the difficulty of fundraising throughout the COVID 19 pandemic, supporters of a park for disabled residents reached their fundraising goal for Project Sandbox.
At the Daphne City Council meeting on June 7, members of the Daphne-Spanish Fort Kiwanis Club and the Exceptional Foundation said they exceeded their goal of $50,000. Project supporters presented a check for $53,000 to Mayor Robin LeJeune and the council.
“It’s amazing, over $53,000 raised in the climate of a pandemic,” LeJeune said. “How amazing is that? Now, we’re a couple of weeks away from actual equipment and things being brought into the city to start construction on this park and over $53,000 being put toward it.”
LeJeune said the city has been working with the Kiwanis Club to provide a playground for mentally and physically challenged residents for about four years. Fundraising efforts were announced in November 2019.
Ray Moore, project organizer, said attempting to raise the money during the pandemic was a challenge that some supporters were not sure could be overcome.
“It went through the pandemic, and I thought all the wheels had fallen off and we’d never get there. But thank goodness to our one main champion and that’s then-Councilman LeJeune. We couldn’t have done it without him,” Moore said.
LeJeune was City Council president when the project began in 2019. He was elected mayor in 2020. Moore also praised the current council members for their support.
“We couldn’t have done it without this group behind me, everybody behind the big desk up there,” Moore said pointing to the council seats. “All of the donors over the years and here’s where we are tonight.”
He said the Exceptional Foundation, a center for challenged adults, was the third partner in the effort.
While most parks in the area meet the accessibility requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act, only one facility in Baldwin County is designed for people with disabilities, Moore said.
“We got the idea that we needed a park that they could go to and enjoy themselves. At that time, the nearest one was in Bay Minette, and we call ourselves the cultural center of Baldwin County,” Moore said. “Not to have something like this for those citizens was a shame, was absolutely a shame. We do have parks. They are all ADA, but they’re not inclusive to have people like that around them. So, we got to work. The city loaned us staff to help us, which was fantastic. So did the other groups with us.”
The inclusive park will include standard playground equipment, but also items modified for disabled users. In the Bay Minette park, equipment includes zip slides, climbing walls, slides, umbrella canopies and Americans with Disabilities Act-approved amenities. It also includes double ramps to allow for multiple wheelchairs, and the groundcover is concrete with a padding overlay to make it easier for wheelchairs to maneuver through the park.
The Daphne park is to be built on land donated by the city. The city also donated $100,000 to the project, according to previous reports.