Hurricane Sandy took many things with her — but the hard-hit community of Bay Park will soon have a new playground to replace the one the storm destroyed at its civic association headquarters on East Cooke Street, thanks to the organization The Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play.
The Sandy Ground Project was established by members of the New Jersey Fireman’s Benevolent Association, with the intention of building 26 playgrounds along the coast of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut in towns that were hit by the Superstorm 21 months ago. The new playgrounds are meant to honor the memory of the 20 children and six teachers who were massacred in a killed spree by 20-year-old Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012. The Bay Park location was the 25th one chosen.
The project’s roots actually go back to Hurricane Katrina, after which NJFMBA donated and built playgrounds in the gulf. Their kindness was returned years later when two Mississippi communities donated over a thousand wrapped gifts to New Jersey towns devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The Sandy Ground Project became the next step in the true spirit of paying it forward.
Each themed playground is devoted to the memory of one child or teacher who was killed at Sandy Hook. The color scheme and play areas will match that of the victims’ preferences. The East Cooke Street playground will be dedicated to 6-year-old Noah Pozner, the youngest victim of the shootings.
“Noah’s memory will live on with this playground, through the children of our community,” said Dan Caracciolo, who was instrumental in bringing this playground project to Bay Park. Caracciolo is also the founder of the local grass-roots organization the11518.
Paying it forward
Before the construction of the new playground begins, and in keeping with the pay it forward theme, a community fundraiser will be held on July 22 at Reel, 1 Main St. East Rockaway, at 7 p.m. where the Bay Park Civic Association and the11518 will be joining forces to raise money for the Sandy Ground Project’s next effort: to build playgrounds to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. A post-build party is planned for the evening of July 26. “The community will have the chance to thank this incredible group,” Caracciolo said. “They are as invested in Bay Park’s recovery as they are in honoring Noah. These angels rise with us.”
For more information, or to donate, visit www.thesandygroundproject.org.