A new playground with the ability to reach thousands of families throughout the region got its start Sunday at Lefferson Park.
Designed for children with abilities and those with disabilities, Elley’s Hope Playground Park is a 15,000-square-foot park named in honor of Elley Ferrell, 12, who was born with spina bifida.
The Highview Center sixth-grader is the daughter of Pastor Lamar Ferrell, of Berachah Baptist Church, and his wife, Maryanne, who started Elley’s Hope approximately five years ago after their daughter was hospitalized.
The park will feature numerous pieces of playground equipment, a shelter with picnic tables, benches, flag poles and possibly a parking lot.
“Elley has opened a lot of doors with her life and we wanted to see a continuation of it,” Lamar Ferrell said.
Berachah Church volunteers and community members have remodeled more than 60 dilapidated Middletown homes over the past seven years as part of its “Hands & Feet” Mission. Each of those projects benefited one family.
“We’ve owned a lot of properties, but we’ve never broke ground on one,” said Pastor Clark Helvey. “We don’t own this one, but by the grace of God and the partnership (with) our city, we get to break ground here today.”
Helvey said Elley’s Hope Playground Park is different from prior Berachah projects because it has the potential to positively affect a portion of the nearly 10,000 people with disabilities in Butler and Warren counties.
“When you do a renovation project, you’re blessing the members of that family and maybe the surrounding community, but with this project … we’re not blessing one family, we’re blessing potentially thousands throughout our community,” Helvey said.
Betty Williamson of Middletown said she turned out for Sunday’s ceremony because the playground effort is “such a blessing” for Elley and any child with disabilities.
“I think it says a lot about the church and the community to have something like this,” Williamson said.
Debbie Hawkey, who came with 3-year-old granddaughter Sariah Meloche, who has spina bifida, said she would gladly drive the 30 minutes from Englewood again to take part in such an event.
“This is above and beyond,” Hawkey said as Sariah used a tiny purple shovel to lend a hand with ground-breaking festivities, which included a balloon launch. “For anybody who has a handicapped child in their family, this is a dream come true because most places we have to fix what there is so that they can play and this is going to be geared so they can just show up.”
The project is estimated to cost $170,000, and if a parking lot is built, the cost will jump by $30,000 to $50,000, he said.
Excavation and construction on Elley’s Hope Playground Park is scheduled to start in early May. The project is expected to be dedicated Sept. 20, Helvey said.
Volunteers are still being sought to work on the playground throughout the summer, Helvey said.
Ferrell said that as a father it is “humbling and encouraging” that members of the community give of their time, talent and resources to take part in making Elley’s Hope Playground Park a reality.
“It’s a love to my daughter, and as a love to my daughter, it’s a love to us and that just encourages us to love and encourage the community,” Ferrell said.