FINALLY!!!! The day that children in Valparaiso and Porter County have been anxiously awaiting! At 10 a.m. on Monday morning, after 2950 volunteers worked approximately16,350 hours in a 7-day period, ValPLAYso - The Next Generation! was officially opened. Excitement filled the air as jubilant children scampered from one station to the next trying out all the new "really cool and fun" playground equipment. The setting was perfect on a beautiful fall day and the playground was packed as many of the children had the day off, thanks to the Valparaiso Community School’s fall break.
“Within the span of a year, this community has gone from a concept, to an idea, and then created a wonderful reality for our children.” said Kaye Frataccia, ValPLAYso - The Next Generation, Leadership Team Co-Chair.
The new playground, completely funded by donations and built by volunteers, is all- ability inclusive, and complete with a rubberized, colored ground surface. It boasts a Zipkrooz, tube slides, swings of various types, monkey bars, and a fire station playhouse and is designed for children of all ages. A unique element of the park is a separate “tot lot” for younger children ages 2-5. The open design allows for the visibility of children from any angle of the playground.
The playground opening was the second time around for John Seibert, Valpo Parks Department Director. Describing the first ValPLAYso build as one of the greatest experiences of his lifetime, he shared that in building ValPLAYso - The Next Generation! there were similarities, but in many cases, this build was even better. “I’ve had the privilege of doing this twice. Being able to serve a new generation of kids and having a new generation of leaders come forward and be value carriers of what we’ve stood for is extraordinary on all kinds of levels.”
“It has been a beautiful day and we’re thankful for that. We’ve had a steady flow of kids and families here as was our hope. We’ve seen kids of all ages and ability levels. To see them all here, playing together, and enjoying it, has been really satisfying.”
At 4 p.m., a Grand Opening Ceremony was held to thank and honor the thousands of volunteers who had spent many long hours during the week of October 6-12, working to build and bring the playground to fruition.
As the hundreds gathered, the ceremony began with a welcome from Frataccia and Rob Thorgren, the ValPLAYso project Co-Chairs. “In January of 2014, 3500 children were asked to tell us their hopes and aspirations regarding a playground of their dreams. From January 30, to October 27, 2014, the community, lead by a group of dedicated volunteers, organized, planned, and raised funds to build the playground our children dreamed of. Today is the culmination of many months of hard work and determination. It is the result of a labor of love for our children and our community. It is a true example of the spirit of Valparaiso. I would like to give thanks a million times over to all of the fantastic volunteers who made this day possible!,” Frattacia said.
Izzy Murphy, a third grader at Immanuel Lutheran School and fundraiser for the project, had the honor of cutting the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the park. Through her lemonade stand fundraising efforts, she raised more than $6,000 for the project. She proclaimed the Zipkrooz and merry-go-round as her favorite parts of the playground.
For Monica Decker, Co-Chair of the Childrens’ Committee, the excitement could hardly be contained. “This is seriously the most amazing day!” She shared that the Childrens’ Committee raised over $12,000 for the project. Looking around at the hundreds of kids on the playground, she smiled and said, “This is what we did it for. We did this for all these kids!”
Co-Chair, Kevin Kosek, was also beaming. “This is so great to be a part of. I’m so honored,” he exclaimed. “Monica and I had the opportunity, in the span of a couple months, to meet 3500 kids in the Valparaiso School System. It was amazing and one of those things I’ll never forget!”
Although the playground is open, finishing touches are being made to the site. The handprint tiles from the original build will remain and become part of a larger, unique gathering spot. The “Face Plate Plaza” will showcase photos that will be etched onto stainless steel mounted plates. On-going construction will also include a Donor Gateway Plaza, with a completed project date of Spring 2015, at which time will include a Grand Opening for the $1.2 million dollar project.
For more information or to make a donation, please visit the website at: www.valplayso.com .