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"The Gift of Playing With Friends'' Morris County All Access Playground Provides Fun For Special Needs Families

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PARSIPPANY, NJ- Morristown resident Tiffany Smensky had a dream for an "All-Access" park.

"If we can't give our children a miracle to cure their disability, we can give them the gift of playing with their friends," Smensky said.

These words were delivered to the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Morris County Park Alliance's "All Access" Playground almost a year ago. Srnensky delivered that message, and on Sunday, Sept. 6, her words came to life at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the parks' opening.

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The playground is located at Central Park of Morris County, and was born out of the dedication and hard work of many passionate parents. Seeing first hand that many parks and playgrounds have limitations for children with disabilities, they wanted to make a difference for families with special needs.

Since many parks do not provide easy access, safe enclosed areas, or proper equipment for wheelchairs or other walking aides, it is difficult for certain kids and families to use and enjoy them.  All of that was considered when designing this playground, to ensure that all children, with or without disabilities, can enjoy themselves.

The playground has been under construction for about a year, and was built mostly through volunteer labor. Patrick Tortorello of Randolph was one of the volunteers who put in some hours of labor at the site. His daughter was enjoying one of the special swings, much to his and her delight. He said, "This park is beautiful. My daughter is 19, she is here today with her friend. We never had anything like this when she was growing up, we are looking forward to enjoying it with her."

According to a press release, the New York Jets and the United Way of Northern New Jersey are the primary funding partners for the playground. There were many other generous corporate and private donors who helped the dream become a reality. The playground cost a total of $350,000 and includes a poured-in-place safety surface without seams for easy travel, two access ramps, and a patio area. Jets players came during construction to help plant trees for shade around the park. 

Doug Cabana, one of Morris County's Freeholders and former mayor of Boonton Township, was one of the liaisons to the park commission for the project. He was thrilled with the result, stating, "They did a great job, and really provided a need for a segment of our population that doesn't always have access to playgrounds. This beautiful playground is for all children of Morris County, and is another jewel in our crown."

It was a sweltering hot day, but that didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the attendees, as the Park Alliance provided cold drinks and snacks for all to help celebrate the grand opening. A pre-ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in which many of the dedicated members were acknowledged and thanked for their efforts in making the park come to life.

Rockaway resident John Silverte was up on the playground structure with his daughter. He and his wife assisted with fundraising for the park, and are looking to the future benefits it will bring them and their daughter. He explained, "There are a lot of nice parks around, like the beautiful one in Denville, but she cannot use the swings or access some of the other equipment. Having a public place like this to come to is great. She has a lot of friends with special needs, so having a place where we can all come to have a play date is really nice."

Future plans call for a shade structure. Funds are still being collected for this and other amenities. Donations of $250 or more will be recognized with a balloon plaque on the surrounding fence, but any donation is welcomed and helpful, and appreciated. 

For more information, or to donate, contact Denise Lanza, Executive Director of the Morris Park Alliance at 973-326-7615, or dlanza@morrisparks.net

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