Volunteers needed to help install playground at New London's Riverside Park

New London - Volunteers are needed to help install a playground at Riverside Park in honor of one of the children killed last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Six-year-old Emilie Parker, one of 20 students and six adults who were shot at the school, liked to play in the shade at recess. So when Bill Lavin, a New Jersey firefighter who heads up a project to build 26 playgrounds in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey as a way to also recover from Hurricane Sandy, saw Riverside Park last spring, he knew he had found a place for Emilie's playground.

Last week volunteers poured a concrete slab just below the basketball courts and at 11 a.m. on Nov. 13, a truck from New Jersey will deliver the playground equipment. Work will continue from Nov. 14 to 16.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony

A ribbon-cutting ceremony, "Emilie's Shady Spot," is scheduled for Nov. 17 at a time to be announced.

"Anyone can show up that day or get in touch with us beforehand," said Corina Vendetto, who is helping to coordinate volunteers for the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association's Sandy Ground Project.

"I'm overwhelmed, emotional and blessed to be part of this," said Vendetto, who has advocated for years to save the park from being sold and to bring more people into its 18 riverfront acres.

"My involvement with Riverside Park has always been about the park. ... It's never been about any one group affiliation. It's always been about the park," she said. "The playground will be a fitting tribute to the little girl who didn't like playing in the hot sun. When I stop to think about that, it's emotional."

The playgrounds are being built by firefighters, police officers, teachers and support staff and volunteers and are being done with the approval of the families of those killed. The project is estimated to cost between $1.8 million and $2 million.

A municipality does not have to pay for the playground but organizers ask for a donation, to help build the next playground. New London is trying to raise $100,000 to donate to the Where Angels Play Foundation.

For further information, contact Victor Spinnato at (860) 867-6072; Ed Hallisey at (860) 884-5117; or Vendetto at (860) 574-5758.

Information is also available at www.thesandygroundproject.org, and at Sandy Ground at Riverside Park - New London, CT and The Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play, both on
Facebook.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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