Concert to benefit Park Road Park project

County officials hoping to build a memorial playground at Park Road Park need a big turnout at an upcoming fundraising concert.

(Above) Designs for the playground show a number of new features that could be built.

(Above) Designs for the playground show a number of new features that could be built.

Nnenna Freelon and The Branford Marsalis Quartet will perform at a benefit concert June 15, a Saturday, at Freedom Park to raise money for the proposed south Charlotte playground. The project is an effort to honor the 20 children and six educators who were killed in a school shooting last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Director Jim Garges has challenged park systems across the nation to construct similar playground projects, but must first see his department and the Partners for Parks Foundation bring in enough donations to fund the project in Charlotte.

“I felt (the playground) would make a statement about how people in Mecklenburg County have been impacted by the tragedy and show the parents and residents of Newtown that we care,” Garges said in an email. “What better way to honor the children lost and their teachers by building a playground for children and families to play? During the build we will also honor the children and their families through volunteerism.”

The department recently held a Hats Off to Parks fundraising event for the project, since the project will be paid for through community donations and not county dollars. The department needs around $150,000 for the build, which will replace an aging playground at the popular park. Fundraising totals from the recent event weren’t available by press deadline, though Lori Saylor, volunteer services and special events coordinator for parks and rec, said there’s still a long way to go toward reaching the goal even though around 200 people attended the Hats Off event.

“We’re going to keep hammering at it until we get it done,” Saylor said. “We know that everybody can’t help us financially … but I’m going to need to find about 2,000 volunteers to build it. So, if you can’t help financially, you can still volunteer. We have an opportunity for everybody to give, no matter how they give.”

The proposed playground will be built over four to five days thanks to the large number of volunteers, assuming the department can get enough people signed up. Designs for the project are complete, thanks in part to children at nearby Pinewood Elementary School and their ideas for suitable playground equipment. Kids in each grade level drew their “dream park” and the drawings were given to designers to use when working on the playground plans.

Once enough money is collected, construction will start on the park.

The benefit concert starts at 7 p.m. at Freedom Park, 1900 East Blvd. Find more information and make a donation to the project at the parks and recreation website, www.charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/ParkandRec.

Find more information on donating to the project at the Partners For Parks website, www.partnersforparks.org.

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