August 27, 2014 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
Let Them Play, an idea to include fully accessible playground equipment for all children, has warmed enough hearts in Orion Township.
Nonprofit organization Sister Souls, Inc. collected sufficient funding this summer to build Orion Township's first playground for kids with special needs, costing $50,000, thanks to multiple fundraising efforts by the caring community and an assemblage of donations.
The playground, titled Let Them Play, will be built eight feet west of the current play structure at Friendship Park. Two fully accessible wheelchair swings along with a perimeter of concrete will offer a fully accessible approach for playground fun. Let Them Play will butt up to two existing sidewalks and the remaining perimeter will be paved in donated bricks, which helped fund the equipment.
Childhood friends Kimberly Casper and Stacy Blaine founded Sister Souls in 2011 with a mission to help local children through different projects and events.
For this particular project Sister Souls partnered with Orion Township to help raise the funds. Through a grant process the township is using all the funds generated by Sister Souls to build the playground. For the grant process Sister Souls had to raise $50,000 by August 31, and expects to start construction in the beginning of September.
Casper, Blaine, member Kristi Schons and other volunteers coordinated several fundraising opportunities throughout the summer to help raise the funds.
Fundraising projects, such as the hair "cut-a-thon" at Prime Designz Salon in Rochester, helped immensely.
The cut-a-thon raised about $5,500, and also took out Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett's entire head of hair. Owner of the salon, Stephanie Gearheart challenged Barnett that if she got 10 or more people to donate $100 he would have to shave his head.
She got 13.
Just recently Lake Orion's American Legion Post 233 donated $775 to the cause, which could top off to around $1,000, member John Ranville said.
Donated money came unexpectedly through the Legion's summer golf outing after Ranville made an announcement for a 50/50 drawing to help fund the playground equipment.
"It really helped by announcing that it was for the children," Ranville said.
Donations originally began pouring in after Sister Soul's set up a website listing several items for purchase that will be placed around Orion Township's existing parks.
According to Parks Director Aaron Whatley, donators have purchased about 17 benches, a half-dozen birdhouses, and almost 300 bricks through the Sister Soul's donation website, eventbrite.com/e/let-them-play-tickets-10802513609.
Items can still be purchased, and any funds exceeding the $50,000 requirement will used to purchase one additional piece of equipment for the playground and a changing table for the public restroom.
"The success of this playground is due to the kindness of generous souls," Casper said. "We thank every single person who contributed in any way."