Marimor Legacy Park & Playground Dedication
These welcoming remarks were made by Superintendent Theresa Schnipke at the Grand Opening and Dedication of the Marimor Legacy Park & Playground on October 25, 2021.
Good morning and welcome to a celebration we could not wait to have. We made it – although some days I wondered. We even had the challenge of almost 4 inches of rain to celebrate this grand opening. However, we have the absolute best staff who went into Plan B mode at 5:00 a.m. this morning. Thank you to everyone who pitched in to get these lovely accommodations ready.
I want to welcome all of our guests here today, including donors and those that helped us build this dream. I also want to welcome our elected officials who graciously agreed to take some time out of their very busy schedules to join us. Here today is Senate President Matt Huffman, Speaker of the House Bob Cupp, Common Pleas Court Judge Terri Kohlreiser, Probate & Juvenile Judge Todd Kohlreiser and Delphos Mayor Doug Mullenhour. I apologize if anyone else slipped in and I missed you.
4 years ago in October 2017, after our annual chicken BBQ, we made the first deposit into an account that simply said “all ability playground.” Little did we know then, what that would mean today. Many things have changed since that first deposit. First, we joined together with others that were planning to build a playground in Allen County and eventually, decided to build two All Ability Playgrounds – one on the west side and one on the east side of the county. We formed a committee of truly dedicated people to raise the funds needed. We dreamed and designed our way to what you see here today. There were times early on I wondered if we could really raise more than a million dollars for playgrounds. I should never have doubted what a group of truly committed and caring people can do together. Each and every one of you – and many not here today – are part of that truly committed and caring community.
During a clean out in the school building this past summer, a box of old records was placed in my office. As I looked at them late one evening, I knew I had been given a gift from God, who has perfect timing. They were covered in heavy dust and all from the period of 1968-1974. Here is one of the documents in the box. It is dated January 2, 1974. The school building was brand new at this point and the administrator was informing the County Commissioners that the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation had approved their request for funding to help build a playground for the students at Marimor School. The memo outlines the equipment in the picture to my right. The total price was $2,863.00. State participation was 50% or $1,341.50. As you listen to Esther talk in a few moments about the costs and donations, it is hard to imagine that only 47 years ago it took less than $3,000 to build a playground here on this same ground. Today, though, we are able to give our region a place where all children and all adults can play together. This is not only for children or adults with disabilities – it is for everyone with all abilities.
As I was preparing for today, I thought back on our decision to ‘go ahead’ and buy the equipment in 2020, have it delivered and stored for a year. I thought we were just being conservative with our funds to get 2020 prices; however, what we did not know is that if we had not done that, we would not be gathered here today. We would be waiting on the supply chain issues to clear up and we definitely would have needed more funding. Although we did not need computer chips for this project, the supply issue got us on one final detail – the fencing. This entire park area will be encased by beautiful fencing for the safety of all children. It will also allow parents or grandparents to breathe, or relax a bit, as children run carefree on the playground. With the fencing, then much of our donor signage is temporarily being displayed here. In the spring we hope to finish off our butterfly memorial garden and perhaps, some tactile/visually friendly walls in the area designed for individuals with low sensory and autism needs. So what you will see is not quite finished…but it is ready for play.
[Esther Baldridge, the past president of the Marimor Legacy Foundation and more importantly for today, the chairperson of the Fundraising Committee gave a summarization of the fundraising efforts, largest donors and history of choosing to build a community playground.
President Huffman shared a few words with us and a proclamation for the dedication of the new park and playground. Speaker Cupp discussed the accomplishments since he attended the ground-breaking earlier in the summer.]
Whether we built this big, community. all ability playground or not, Marimor School was in desperate need for a playground…the Board of DD could have replaced it with a much, much smaller one for just the students attending this school; however, we knew in 2016 that when we replaced it, we would want it for community use – and for the students when in session. Chris Nungester and her son Jamie are going to give us their impression of how important all ability playgrounds are for children with disabilities. Jamie is now a student here at Great Day through the Allen County ESC.
Early on, we decided for this playground we wanted to have what is called a ‘Community Build.’ Not only to save money with volunteers, but more importantly, to involve many of you here today. We wanted each of you to see this playground, help build it and then show others the purpose of inclusive play. We then want you to play on it and bring others to play on it. Over 3 ½ days in September we had nearly 220 people help put this very complicated and intricate equipment together. Each day more than 20 students from Apollo came to help, using their expertise and equipment for hands-on learning. Boy, did I learn a lot from them! Their teachers, Mr. Washman, Mr. Wise and Mrs. Hessling, were an amazing support throughout the build. Then we had at least one business each day lending many staff to the project. On Wednesday, Garmann Miller, on Thursday, Nutrien, on Friday, Trisco, as part of the United Way Day of Caring. Then we had many others from local businesses, churches, friends, family AND many who kept coming back in the evenings. On Saturday, we had a big group of friends from Putnam County – they not only worked hard, they were entertaining. Volunteers kept coming back into the following week. We had volunteers from the 5 counties that surround Allen. We called on our friends at Tuttle Construction in the weeks that followed to help us lift the largest poles you see here today. That was amazing to watch, incredible talent with the right equipment. We literally had no idea what we were getting into each day, but I think many of us learned a whole lot about this process. If you plan to build one of these, and need help, give us a call.
The Fundraising Committee consisted of Esther Baldridge, Greg Bukowski, Candy Newland, Rachael Staley, Morgan Rigali, Paul Crow, Corrine Piper and Brad Perrot. For nearly 3 years, this group met monthly and did not waver in their commitment toward the goal. Some of you called on donors directly, several of you wrote grants, such as Corrine, with the International Lions grant. That was a huge boost toward our goal. Some of you called on football players from Bath, friends and family to help with fundraisers. You all deserve a round of applause. Thank you does not quite cover all you have done.
The Board of DD members here today also made a significant contribution toward this project. The DD Board members are Tom Fleming, Ty Butterfield, Linda Lehman, Chrissy Hood (who also brought along DECA students from Lima Senior throughout the process), Phyllis Montrose, Bob McPheron and Marty Garlock. I cannot thank them enough for their support.
I also want to recognize that early on, Melissa Weaver helped with the design ideas. Her son Owen used playgrounds such as this one. Sadly, Owen passed away in January 2018, but Melissa’s and her husband, Chad’s, passion for this project have remained to honor Owen’s memory. We cannot thank them enough for being some of the first donors to this project. A flag pole is dedicated to our Super O.
Now, finally, I want to recognize Dean McCombs, Curtis Shepherd, Brandon Morman and Jeremie Boop. I absolutely cannot thank these four men enough. I could never do justice to all the work they have done outside the normal 8-4. I am not even sure I know all they have done to make sure this playground was finished. Just last week, Dean and Curtis wanted to ‘fix’ the big shade and came out on Sunday. You can see they mastered it. Jeremie and Brandon figured out the cozy cocoons one afternoon – while trying to manage their own work. These guys have been knee deep in concrete and 50 feet in the air on ladders. You will never know what a blessing it is to work with people who just do not quit. Thank you. They also will be on-hand to answer any questions about the poles, shades, build process, how many pounds of Sakcrete we used. They were here the duration and we are most appreciative to their work.
Thank you to the Lewis Family McDonald’s, not only for your very significant donation but also for the kid-friendly breakfast. What else would we have at a playground opening…than McDonald’s!
Lastly, would Delaney, Pelumi, Lilliana, and Samuel come up to help with the ribbon cutting. And then Cindy Tenwalde from the Chamber will lead us in the ribbon-cutting.
Alright, that’s it….let’s play. Or eat. Or talk. THANK you for coming!
Below are the documents Theresa found from 1974.