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Playground inspires

Published May 03. 2013 4:00AM

It is fitting that the playground to be constructed at Riverside Park in New London will be dedicated to the memory of 6-year-old Emilie Parker, one of 20 children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It was the courageous comments of Robert Parker in the aftermath of the mass shooting, comments he said were inspired by the love for his daughter, which set the tone for the many good works that have followed the horrible event.

"Let it not turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and humble people," said Mr. Parker the day after the Dec. 14 shooting.

Such sentiments, repeated by other family members, led to a campaign on social media sites for individuals to perform "26 acts of kindness" in memory of the 20 children and six educators killed in the attack on the Newtown school. There have been countless good works, ranging from scholarships, to youth camp sponsorships to clothing drives, to name just a few.

Now New London has the good fortune to benefit from this movement to memorialize the victims with loving acts. The New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association is leading a project to construct 26 playgrounds in memory of victims. Towns are being selected in the tri-state area of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, in part because they are also recovering from the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.

The playground at Riverside Park will be named "Emilie's Shady Spot," which recalls that the fair-skinned blond Emilie liked to retreat to the cool shade when playing outdoors. Bill Lavin, the New Jersey firefighter who is heading up the playground project, said when he visited the wooded, 18-acre urban park he knew it was the place for Emilie's playground.

The Day joins the City of New London in thanking the New Jersey firefighter's group for selecting Riverside. New London firefighters will join other local volunteers in working on construction of the playground. And in the spirit of passing it forward, fundraisers are planned to help pay for playgrounds in other communities.

As Lt. Victor Spinnato of the New London Fire Department put it succinctly in addressing the Parks & Recreation Commission, "It's a good thing."

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