By Loretta Rodgers Times Correspondent Oct 4, 2019

ASTON — Township officials, representatives from Energy Transfer Partners, and residents gathered on Thursday to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony for “Smiles in the Playground,” a special needs accessible playground located on the grounds of the community center on Concord Road.

The playground is the long-awaited dream of township resident Kit Spayd and her mother, 2nd Ward Commissioner Carol Graham.

“Today is surreal,” Spayd said. “This has been 12 years in the making and now it will soon become a reality. The playgroundis far beyond my expectations and I am very grateful to Energy Transfer Partners and the township for making it possible for all children to have a safe place to play.”

Energy Partners, the Texas-based company that is building and operating the Mariner East pipeline project, donated $305,000 for the all-inclusive playground that will include swings, a merry-go-round, seesaw, climbing area and much more. A balance of ground level and elevated play activities will allow children of all skill sets to play freely.

“This is a wonderful day and a great thing to be part of,” said Joseph McGinn, Energy Transfer Partners vice president of public affairs and government relations. “I thank everyone who came up with the idea. We were lucky enough to help get it done. The board of commissioners realize how important it is to support all aspects of the community and this is one of the reasons I love being a resident here.”

The overall theme of the park is to inspire children in the community to try things that they thought were outside of their range of capabilities and empower them to overcome obstacles.

Spayd and her husband, Nick, are the parents of two daughters, one of whom is special needs. Spayd said she received wonderful suggestions from parents of special needs children, especially from those with children in wheelchairs.

According to Spayd, 2nd Ward resident Layna Rizzo and her daughter Gina, who has Rhetts Syndrome, were instrumental in providing help with the layout of the playground.

Aston resident Dawn Becker-Shockley and her special needs daughter, 16-year-old Alexis Shockley, were delighted to be part of the groundbreaking.

“This is really going to be incredible,” Becker-Shockley said. “It will be a wonderful experience for children whether they are teenagers or 4 years old. I am so thankful to our community for building this playground.”

The playground, which will be constructed in the shape of the Superman symbol, is expected to be completed by early November and future plans include the addition of canopies, landscaping and trees.

“Smiles on the Playground – the name alone makes you smile,” Graham said. “This extraordinary playground celebrates diversity and focuses on inclusion of all children.”