For Melinda Mulvenna, completion of a new Mayfair Memorial Playground will be “a promise kept.”
Back in 2008, her 22-month-old daughter fell after her foot got caught in a hole in the padding on the ground.
The Mulvennas, of Guilford Street, had no interest in filing a lawsuit. They wanted only a safer play environment for neighborhood kids.
“I was afraid that another child would get hurt,” she said.
The playground is located at Rowland Avenue and Vista Street, on the grounds of Abraham Lincoln High School. After the incident three years ago, the School District of Philadelphia ripped out all of the playground equipment.
Since then, the Friends of Mayfair Memorial Playground has raised about $23,000 through door-to-door solicitations, an Easter egg hunt, two beef-and-beers and the annual Fallen Heroes Run.
Recently, the group’s coffers really grew with a promise of $80,000 from KaBOOM! Inc., a national non-profit group that helps build playgrounds in communities.
The money was given to the Mayfair Community Development Corporation, which passed it on to the school district.
Last week, the School Reform Commission considered the donation at its monthly voting meeting, which was dominated by parents angry at the departure of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.
Between verbal attacks on commission members and school district officials, Mulvenna and Mayfair Civic Association president Joe DeFelice made a short presentation.
Afterward, commission members Denise McGregor Armbrister, Joseph A. Dworetzky, Johnny Irizarry and chairman Robert L. Archie Jr. — nominee Pedro A. Ramos is awaiting state Senate confirmation — voted 4-0 to authorize the school district to accept the funds to pay for equipment and a wood fiber play surface.
The school district will also assume liability.
“This was the major hurdle,” DeFelice said, adding that he expects KaBOOM! and the school district to partner on future projects.
Supporters of the playground were to consider a design this week, with the actual work being done in late October.
“There’s no reason that the equipment shouldn’t be in the ground on Nov. 1,” DeFelice said.
At the Aug. 24 meeting, DeFelice told the commission that there are no other playgrounds in the area solely for children age 7 and younger. Nor are there any playgrounds within walking distance that don’t require children and parents to cross four-lane highways such as Cottman Avenue and Frankford Avenue.
The Mayfair Business Association and local elected officials support the project.
The playground will be accessible to children with autism, cerebral palsy and other special needs.
“That is a big goal, to have a playground for everybody,” Mulvenna said.
Added Magee Avenue resident Mia Hylan, who has a 1-year-old and 3-year-old: “We want to see special-needs equipment incorporated because it’s sorely lacking in Philadelphia.”
Mulvenna and Rowland Avenue resident Dana Lambie are co-chairwomen of the Friends of Mayfair Memorial Playground, which will pay $8,500 toward completion of the project and continue to raise money for maintenance and other issues.
KaBOOM! will oversee the project, and Playworld Systems will deliver the equipment.
In all, there will be 200 volunteers — 75 supplied by the Friends group and 125 by Giant supermaket.
Local children will play a role in the design, expected to include sliding boards and climbing poles on a level 2,500-square-foot surface. Lighting, fencing, flowers and benches will be added in the spring.
Tudor Street resident Anna Stacey, who has a 3-1/2-year-old son, is looking forward to the new playground.
“It’s definitely exciting. It’s right around the corner from my house,” said Stacey, who attended the school reform commission meeting.
In the absence of the playground the last three years, parents have taken their children to other playgrounds, such as the one at Verree and Susquehanna roads in Fox Chase.
Still, they said it’ll be nice to have one close to home.
“It’s an empty lot. It’s sad and depressing to walk around there,” Lambie said. “Now, there will be a place for all the children to get together to play and interact and get to know each other.” ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org