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Group looking to add accessible equipment at Betty Macelli Park in Forty Fort
Times Leader - 4/4/2021
Apr. 4—FORTY FORT — Jerry LaMark grew up with a sister who had cerebral palsy.
He said he vividly remembers his mother, Kathleen LaMark, wheeling his sister, Carol, outside on the porch in the summer to get some fresh air.
"She would love to watch the kids play in the neighborhood," LaMark recalled. "I remember seeing my mom, filled with heartbreak, watching her. There really wasn't much to do if you were handicapped back then, so that's why this project means a lot to me."
LaMark's "project" includes holding two events — a pig roast and a pitch tournament — that will hopefully raise enough funds to purchase and place a handicapped-accessible swing and other accessible playground equipment for children under 5 years old at the Betty Mascelli Park on Wyoming Avenue.
"My wife, Catherine, and I have lived in Forty Fort for over 35 years and have raised two children there," LaMark said. "We would take our children to the park, but most of the rides were antiquated."
LaMark said with help from volunteers from the community, he and his wife started the Forty Fort Park Restoration.
"We have raised enough money to buy new swing sets, a Pikes Peak climbing apparatus, and most notable, the Fort, which has several activities for children," LaMark said.
Now, with a new committee, LaMark said there are a few new goals — resurfacing the basketball courts, new rims and banking boards, new equipment for children under five and additional accessible equipment for children with disabilities.
Forty Fort Councilwoman Kristy Dadurka is working with the LaMarks to raise the funds to improve the park.
"The park is a passion project for me," Dadurka said. "I went to the park when I was a child with my sister, Lisa Pernot, who has Down syndrome.
Dadurka said as a child, her sister had multiple surgeries, especially on her knees and legs, and she spent a lot of time in a wheelchair while recovering from those surgeries.
"As kids, if we had a swing that was handicapped accessible, I think it would have made things much easier for her and she would have had a lot more fun at the playground," Dadurka said. "Most of the equipment available back then, she was unable to use. We really want an inclusive environment for children of all ablitity and disability to be able to access and have fun."
Dadurka said she and the LaMarks have been working on the project to improve the playground since last summer. She said they started selling bricks for the park for $100 each and that is still going on if people want to purchase them.
Dadurka said the plan is to add a large area that will be dedicated to toddlers — with hands-on equipment for younger children that would be more inclusive for children of all levels of abilitiy.
LaMark said the White House Diner and the Fort Cafe will be having their Annual Pig Roast on June 19, at the Forty Fort Pavilion, with 100% of the proceeds going toward the handicapped swing set and playground equipment for children under five years old.
Tickets will be $35 per person and can be bought at the White House Diner and Fort Cafe.
Chef Jeff Piazza will be on-site, insuring everyone enjoys this wonderful feast for a great cause, LaMark said.
For more information, or if interested in helping out with the event, contact Jerry LaMark at: JERATFFPARK@aol.com.
Additionally, LaMark said bricks are still on sale $100 each — three lines on the brick, each line has 15 spaces.
A Pitch Tournament will be held at the Forty-Fort Park on Saturday June, 26. The time of the event is to be determined.
Tournament fees will be $50 per person, or $100 per team. LaMark said the group is looking for 32 teams to enter. Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place teams.
For more information on the pitch tournament, or if interested in helping out with the event, contact Jerry
LaMark at: JERATFFPARK@aol.com.
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