Bringing the Community Together with the Goal of Creating an All-inclusive Playground
By Carrie Winters
The dream started when Carol Ernst was visiting her close neighbors, Rachel and Tommy McAuley, after their daughter Mary passed away from complications from CP and seizures. Carol was looking at pictures of her and the McAuley’s children playing together with huge smiles on their faces but noticed there were no pictures of Mary on the playground having fun with her siblings Grant and Graham. That really bothered Carol. She couldn’t stop thinking about it.
A few days passed and God kept giving Carol nudges of affirmation that her dream needed to be a reality. So, Carol gathered their strong team of friends and told them about her dream of the all-inclusive playground. The ladies hit the ground running, spreading the news as much as possible. They had fundraiser after fundraiser and the word was out!
Over the next year and a half many of the city’s clubs threw wonderful events and functions with Mary’s Magical Place (MMP) as the beneficiary. Clubs such as Hendersonville Women’s Club, the Hendersonville Junior Service League, and the Hendersonville Morning & Evening Rotary are just a few that have joined forces. Now, businesses are joining the MMP team. Binks had a big part in the startup of the fundraising. First Tennessee stepped up to help community awareness with star-shaped banks to distribute throughout the community. The Goddard School had a lemonade stand to “refresh” people about MMP. The Primrose School of Hendersonville is throwing their second annual half marathon to help with the playground costs as well as the Women’s Club having a huge BBQ festival called Pig in the Park, both on September 16, this year. Wonderful, anonymous donors have also given a large amount, too.
Even the kids in the community are having bake sales, lemonade stands and garage sales to help the cause! Right now, the fund is at $570,000. The total needed for the park is one million. The Liberty Swing (wheelchair swing) is $25,000 just by itself.
“We have done so much research all over the United States and found special equipment for everyone, including the flooring itself,” Carol said. “It is made from special materials so that if you have a cochlear ear implant, the ground will not send the static sound.”
Carol and Jennifer Finlin have gone firsthand with their team and looked over twenty-five parks that are already inclusive. But Hendersonville’s will be different because it will be dedicated to Mary McAuley. If you are on crutches, in prosthetics, wheelchair bound, or have balance issues this will be the place to go. “We know that the playground will give every family or friend a way to play together no matter what the disability or situation,” says Rachel.
The team hopes the playground will be fully functional by May 2018 thanks to Lowes LLC. It will be located at Veterans Park near the inline hockey arenas. The Hendersonville Parks department will be handling all of the upkeep after the park is built. This park is going to bring in people from all over and Sumner County will welcome all of them!
The MMP team is offering engraved bricks that will surround the playground for a donation. All donations are accepted on their website, marysmagicalplace.org.