Parkersburg Raises Money for Playground Equipment

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By Becky Ogann

(PARKERSBURG) – Parkersburg officials are seeking volunteers to help bring outdoor playtime back into the lives of the town’s children.

Nearly all of the community’s school and city playground equipment was damaged or destroyed, as well as many homes, public buildings and businesses in the devastating tornado that struck the town on May 25, 2008.

Now, volunteers are needed this month to help install new playground equipment purchased through local fund-raising efforts and a matching grant from the Miracle Recreation Equipment Company based in Missouri.

Community members such as Chris Luhring and Dan Bruns have been working tirelessly to raise money to replace and add to the equipment which was originally part of Parkersburg’s parks and schools, said Amy Truax, a member of the Parkersburg Long-Term Recovery Committee and the Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission (RIAC).

The total cost of the project is approximately $500,000. Funds were acquired through the town’s fund-raising efforts, along with a matching grant from the Miracle Recreation Equipment Company Foundation.

Equipment will be put up in two locations -- Schwartz Memorial Park April 16-18; and Miracle Park April 22-26. Volunteer crews are still needed to work from 8 a.m. to sunset and will be served lunch, dinner and snacks. Anyone or any group that would like to volunteer should contact Amy Truax by calling (319) 346-9853 or e-mailing her at ajtruax@aol.com.

"Our mission is to rebuild the city park and playgrounds to provide the children of Parkersburg and the surrounding area a safe and enjoyable place to play,” said Truax. “We also want the playgrounds to serve both a recreational function, and more importantly, a therapeutic function for the citizens of Parkersburg and the surrounding areas.”

This will be the first time playground equipment will be installed at Schwartz Memorial Park, a new park on the east side of town.

The second installation involves equipment for two playground areas at the former swimming pool park, now called Miracle Park. The park has been renamed Miracle Park for three reasons – no children were killed in last year’s tornado, to recognize the amazing progress the community has made in its recovery to date and to acknowledge the sizable grant made by the Miracle Recreation Equipment Company Foundation, Truax said.

Lt. General Ron Dardis, Executive Director of the Rebuild Iowa Office, said the playground project is a significant step in Parkersburg’s recovery. “This project brings attention to the impact a disaster can have on Iowa’s youngest residents,” Gen. Dardis said. “The relationships forged with the city, Miracle Recreation Equipment Company officials and volunteers have resulted in a project that will assist in the continued healing and recovery of the community.”

Miracle Park will be dedicated during its “Renewal with Remembrance” events over Memorial Day weekend as the Parkersburg community marks the one-year anniversary of the tornado.

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