Credit for the new Mayfair Memorial Playground goes to many, but Mayfair Civic Association president Joe DeFelice called Melinda Mulvenna the “driving force.”
Mulvenna was at the playground one day in 2008 when her 22-month-old daughter fell after getting her foot caught in a hole in the padding on the ground.
The Guilford Street resident didn’t call a lawyer to sue, but did call a lot of other people to improve the conditions of the playground, located at Rowland Avenue and Vista Street, on the campus of Abraham Lincoln High School.
The School District of Philadelphia eventually ripped out all of the equipment, and Friends of Mayfair Memorial Playground raised money in various ways — an Easter Egg hunt, a beef-and-beer, a Fallen Heroes Run — in an effort to reopen the park.
When Giant supermarket and KaBOOM!, a Washington, D.C.-based national non-profit group that creates playgrounds, signed up for the cause, it was time to pick a date and recruit volunteers.
That day came last Thursday, Oct. 27. Rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of 234 volunteers from Giant and the community. In fact, the work was completed in a little more than five hours, with state Rep. Kevin Boyle and City Council candidate Bobby Henon doing some of the heavy lifting.
When it was time to cut the extra-long ribbon, it was Mulvenna who was given the giant scissors and her now-5-year-old daughter, Kaylee, who helped out with a smaller pair.
“This is amazing,” Mulvenna said. “I’m speechless.”
Mulvenna’s motto throughout the last three-plus years was, “A promise kept.” Now that the playground is open, she looks forward to having Kaylee and her 8-year-old son, Andrew, get some healthy exercise.
“We’ll walk the wagon down. It’ll be something to do after school,” she said.
Mayor Michael Nutter and Giant president Rick Herring made appearances at an early-morning ceremony, where DeFelice thanked everyone who made the day possible — neighbors and businesses, unions, government officials, community groups and others.
The project was bound to be a success, based on the history of KaBOOM! Since its founding 15 years ago, the organization has led the building of more than 2,000 playgrounds across North America.
Volunteers not only used their skills to build the playground, they donated more than 500 pounds of canned goods and non-perishable food to two hunger relief organizations, Philabundance and the Holmesburg United Methodist Church King’s Kitchen.
For hungry volunteers, Giant provided enough food and drinks for an army. A disc jockey played music all day.
The playground consists of about 10,000 square feet, and volunteers busied themselves with rakes, buckets, wheelbarrows, shovels and push brooms.
All of the equipment is colorful.
The space includes swings, climbers, sliding boards, tabletop chess and checker boards and a fire engine in memory of firefighter John Redmond, a Mayfair resident who died in the line of duty in 1994.
The playground is handicapped accessible, with a ramp and a specially designed swing.
There are planter boxes, an arbor, foliage, plenty of mulch, a flagpole, a bulletin board and a new sign, fencing, paving, benches and trash cans.
“I was completely overwhelmed watching all the work,” said Mia Hyman, a mother of two from Magee Avenue. “A lot of people will see the results of all of our work.”
DeFelice said neighbors can take pride forever in knowing that they dug the holes, shoveled the mulch, screwed the bolts and laid the concrete to make the playground a reality.
“The school district could have come out and fixed this in 2008, and we would have had a nice playground for three years,” the civic leader said. “But this is not just rebuilding a playground, it’s rebuilding a neighborhood.”
Dan Collins, of Oakmont Street, takes his 3-year-old daughter, Ryan, to other local playgrounds, but he’s happy that a closer playground is available.
“My daughter said the other day, ‘Daddy, we finally have a playground we can walk to,’ ” said Collins, whose wife will give birth to their second child in a couple of weeks.
The project is not completed. The Friends group will continue to raise money. There is some space for more equipment. Also being added will be hopscotch and tic tac toe, and there will be an area for chalking.
Neighbors are hoping for some nice autumn weather to enjoy the new playground.
“It’s finally here. We’ll be riding our bikes here, probably every day,” said Rowland Avenue resident Dana Lambie, a mother of two.
More than 120 Giant employees donned bright green shirts to help neighbors.
“We’re always doing outreach,” said Christina McAdams, assistant manager of the new store on Grant Avenue. “Anything to help in the community.”
Jenn Leshnower, the project manager from KaBOOM!, said the effort could not have been completed without the volunteer efforts of residents and Giant employees.
“This is exactly our goal, to have the community come together to save play,” she said. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or email@example.com