In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, a dozen Belmont families have pooled their resources to buy a bench honoring first responders at the new Joey's Park, which will also help garner cash for the playground as supporters embark on a final fundraising push this summer.
The idea started when Belmont resident Rachel Hinchliffe sent an email to the Belmont Family Group forum asking for ideas on how to show support for authorities and EMTs, and another parent suggested buying a bench to help fund the new Joey's Park playground and dedicating it to the first responders.
“It’s a win-win for the community,” Hinchliffe said in a statement, noting that she was a half-mile from the Boston Marathon finish line with her toddler when the bombs went off April 15. “It was the perfect idea, but I thought there’s no way I could raise that much.”
However, 12 families - not all of them knew each other, Hinchliffe noted - contributed a total of $500 to buy the bench. The plaque's inscription will read: “In appreciation of First Responders on events surrounding Marathon Monday April 2013.”
The park, built in 1989 in the memory of a local boy who died at 12 years old from cystic fibrosis, closed briefly in 2011 after a safety review raised concerns, and reopened on a temporary basis only after some play equipment was removed.
Now, community members are fundraising to renovate the playground. The brand new facility was designed by students at the elementary school Joey attended, and is being constructed by Belmont residents in an old-fashioned community barn-raising.
The new playground is slated to open in October.
Belmont assistant police chief Jamie MacIssac said he thought the idea of the Belmont families buying a bench supporting first responders at Joey's Park was "wonderful."
“I like the idea of it being at the park," he said. "We like to think of ourselves being in all facets of the community.”
Diane Miller, co-chair of the Friends of Joey's Park group, described the ideas as an "amazing tribute" to first responders and the community.
“That’s exactly what this effort to build the new playground is all about – bringing together the whole town," Miller said. "When we build the new Joey’s Park next October there will be a role for everyone and it will be a time to come together to celebrate community.”
A final fundraising push is now underway as park supporters also seek hundreds of volunteers to help build the park in October.
For more information on the project or to learn more about donating, visit joeyspark.org.