HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – An entire community has come together to honor a 14 year old little girl who passed away 2 years ago. It will be in the form of a brand new playground, but , this is not just any playground.
Rachel McAuley lost her daughter Mary to complications from cerebral palsy two years ago, but was grateful to have the time she had with her.
“The smile that she brought, and the ways that she taught me, and built my character throughout my years without ever saying a word.”
Mary’s smile will live on, thanks to a long time neighbor of the McAuley family.
Carol Ernst remember’s the day Mary passed away.
“Her dad pulled out a picture and said remember this. It was our children when they were small. Ss soon as i saw that picture i remembered how Mary never got to play on that play set that those kids were in front of, and I began to wonder if there was anything like that for children like Mary.”
The seed to memorialize Mary was planted.
“I was shopping one day, and there was a shirt that said make it happen. OK god, I got it, you want me to make this happen.”
Carol spent some time researching accessible playgrounds, and found that only 5-10 percent of playgrounds in the country are to the evel of inclusive design that Mary’s Magical Place will be. That includes three important aspects of design.
“The entire structure is a poured in place rubber surface with a little bit of playground turf…no mulch anywhere.”
The cost of that surface is at least a third the cost of the playground. It will be ramped all the way through which Carol points out, isn’t just for kids with disabilities.
“Think about those parents who may have ms or lost a leg or limb from a car accident, or illness, fighting in the war for our country. They will be able to take their children to the playground.”
The park will have three pieces of equipment a wheelchair user can enjoy without ever leaving their chair, including a liberty swing that will hold 600 pounds.
“That is a grown adult and a very heavy wheelchair. Can you imagine you or yourself, your children, never having enjoyed that tickle in your belly the breeze in your face of being on a swing? This is going to change lives.”
Carol and Rachel put together a committee of 11 women who give of their time freely, meet weekly, and are looking to make a fundraising campaign of almost 800 thousand dollars happen. They’ve already raised 557 thousand dollars.
Carol has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community.
“We’ve had anything from children out running lemonade stands and collecting change, to large service organizations like junior service leagues arsing 47 thousand dollars for us.”
That support brings tears to the eyes of Mary’s mom, Rachel McAuley.
“It just keeps going and more and more. we can’t even keep up with everybody of who wants to do something in her honor. I’ve got some great friends, some good loyal loving friends and a great community in Hendersonville. I couldn’t ask for a better placce to live.”
The Hendersonville Parks Department has agreed to maintain the playground once the installation is complete. They will fundraise until October 31st and hope to break ground on the new playground shortly after that. Mary’s Magical Place also has a brick and paver campaign going on now.
If you want more information on how to get involved, visit their website.
Or check out their Facebook page.