(Posted Oct. 5, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
A major makeover is in the works for the play area at London’s Cowling Park. The project’s inspiration is a brothers’ bond cut short.
On May 19, Noah Daniel Hagmeier, the 7-month-old son of Jen and Dan Hagmeier, died at the home of his babysitter. The family received an outpouring of condolences, and a friend set up a gofundme account to help with expenses.
“People were really generous. Once we paid bills, we wanted to do more with the money,” Jen said. “A playground as a memorial for a little kid is the first thing that comes to mind.”
The Hagmeiers wanted to purchase several pieces of playground equipment, usable by children with special needs and without, for Cowling Park. The couple has two others sons, Fin and Jack. Jack, born two years before Noah, has cerebral palsy and developmental delays.
“We hoped to put in equipment that was adaptive and interactive and paths to make it accessible so that the park would be a place where other special needs and typically-abled kids might be able to foster the kind of relationship that Jack and Noah might have had,” the Hagmeiers wrote in a letter about the project.
They took their idea to London city officials, who then put them in touch with the London Community Organization (LCO), a group whose mission is to enhance, beautify and promote the city. LCO ran with the idea, expanding it into a vision for a full-blown overhaul of the park’s play area.
“We thought this could be something great for the city. This tragic story brought to the forefront how the park was lacking,” said Amy Rees, LCO secretary.
The result is Access Cowling, a fund-raising campaign to install paved walkways and a fully accessible playground with adaptive ramps, swings, slides, shade structures, ground-level activities, and outdoor musical equipment, all atop artificial turf. The estimated cost is $400,000.
The Madison County Board of Develop-mental Disabilities has pledged $50,000 to the project. With the Hagmeier’s seed money, $5,000 from the city’s parks and recreation capital fund, and early donations from several individuals, the campaign has already raised over $66,000.
The improvements will be completed in five phases as funds become available. The first phase, already in progress, includes a multi-purpose path from the parking lot to the gazebo, shelter house, and old basketball courts, as well as five sensory learning walls and new adaptive swings.
The play structure and turf will go up in sections over the subsequent four phases, along with other stand-alone equipment. When finished, the play area will be filled with fun apparatus like: the ZipKrooz, a zip track that allows children of all abilities to soar through the air; the Oodle Swing, on which multiple children can swing at the same time, side-to-side and back and forth; and the Sway Fun, a glider on which able bodied children and wheelchair users can work together to create a swing motion.
“They’ve done a good job of incorporating a little bit of everything,” Jen said. “It’s not just that it’s going to be accessible; it’s going to be fun for everybody, no matter their ability or disability… It’s neat to think Noah’s name will be on something that is good for so many kids.”
LCO is officially kicking off its fundraising campaign with a chicken wing cook-off at the park on Oct. 15. Additional fundraisers are in the works. The park is located on North Main Street in downtown London.
Tax-deductible donations may be sent to: Access Cowling, c/o MC Future Inc., 730 Keny Blvd., London, OH 43140.
Cowling Chicken Challenge
The London Community Organization is hosting a chicken wing cook-off from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 15 at Cowling Park on North Main Street.
Tickets are $20 and include two free wings from each of five local vendors, a bottle of water from Casey’s Carry Out, entry into a raffle to win $100 in cash, and the chance to vote for your favorite wing vendor. The vendors are Andre Tyree, Gumm’s Grill & BBQ, Wilson Family BBQ, My Moment Concessions, and Jarocho’s Mexican Street Food.
Not a wing fan? The vendors will be serving other tasty food for which you don’t need a ticket.
The event also includes live music, face painting, balloon twisting, a bounce house, and police, fire and squad vehicles on display. A London pool pass and a tandem skydiving jump will be raffled off; raffle tickets will be sold at the cook-off.
Proceeds benefit Access Cowling, a project to install all new playground equipment that is inclusive and handicap accessible in Cowling Park. Information and the playground design will be displayed in the new park kiosk at the wing cook-off.
Tickets can be purchased at the following locations: the London mayor’s office, 6 E. Second St.; CK Signs & Apparel; Wilson Printing & Graphics; Phat Daddy’s Pizza; and the London Fire Department.
For more information, call (740) 852-3243.