After more than five years of hoping, dreaming planning, fundraising and lots of hard work by a dedicated group of local residents, local nonprofit Parents for Joy finally broke ground on its project to bring an all-inclusive playground designed for children with special needs to Atascadero’s Colony Park.
When finished, the park will feature poured-in-place rubber to help prevent injuries, a full fence around the perimeter to help contain children with “eloping” issues and several toys and play structures that will be fully wheelchair-accessible including a giant treehouse structure in the center.
During the groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, Atascadero Kiwanis Club members Mark Dariz and Albert
“They were the first group to get involved with a serious fundraising effort five years ago and it’s been a lot of effort,” said Parents for Joy member Geoff Auslen. “There was a fundraiser for the winemaker's dinner through Kiwanis that they have every year and that’s how most of the funds were accumulated and they said when we broke ground they would release the funds and today is the day.”
Auslen also reminded the public that Parents for Joy still needs to raise around $140,000 for the project and announced two upcoming fundraisers. Parents for Joy will be the benefactor of the first Tuesdays in the Park barbecue at Atascadero Lake Park June 19 and will be selling barbecue dinners for $14. A&W Restaurant will also be selling root beer floats at the event with all of the proceeds going to Parents for Joy.
Auslen also announced that Parents for Joy will be partnering with Atascadero State Hospital to host its annual golf tournament in Avila Beach, an event which typically raises between $25-40,000.
“So we’re thrilled to be partnering with them and one way or another we’re going to fund this park and a maintenance fund.”
Several City officials attended the event including members of the City Council and Mayor Tom O’Malley who thanked City staff for their efforts to help find money to fund the project.
“Our staff was able to secure a grant for over $500,000 which was quite a boost to the project,” O’Malley said.
Parents for Joy founding member Sarah Sullivan told the Atascadero News that she has personally been working on the project for nearly five years and is excited to see it finally coming to fruition.
“Thank you Jenell, Jen, Rhonda, and the rest of the Parents For Joy team for all the hard work,” Sullivan said. “We are so blessed to live in such a caring community. We couldn’t have done this without everyone’s support. I cannot wait to see my boys, Keagan and Xander, and so many other families, playing at Joy Playground. I couldn’t be more proud of all that we have accomplished.”
Auslen said that gas lines at the project site have already been relocated deeper underground and construction should be beginning soon.
“This area will be fenced off next week and we’ll be rolling,” he said. “So we are truly breaking ground.”