SELINSGROVE — Wendy Dombroskie beamed during Thursday morning's groundbreaking ceremony of the all-inclusive playground at East Snyder Park.
"For years, society hid people (with intellectual and developmental disabilities) away. It's so refreshing that we're starting to include them," said Dombroskie, the director of community participation at SUNCOM Industries in Northumberland which serves about 300 people.
The Andy Russell Charitable Foundation has raised about $434,000 toward the $475,000 goal to develop, in partnership with Playworld, a playground on 9,600-square-feet of property in the Penn Township park that will accommodate people of all ages and abilities, including wheelchairs and service animals.
Construction is set to begin May 11 with a Community Build Day event scheduled for 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and is expected to be completed by early June.
"There will be no unnecessary barriers for people with physical, strength, balance and coordination problems," permitting them to recreate alongside the non-disabled, said Gary Sojka, a co-honorary chairman of the fundraising campaign.
"There is nothing like this" in the Valley," said Sen. John Gordner at the groundbreaking. The playground will serve residents from several counties across the region, he said.
Dan Hooper, the advisory board chair for the project, accepted the role to help provide something meaningful to the community.
"What we're building is something that will create memories," said Hooper, who recalled a time watching his daughter, Jessica, enjoying a playset years before she was killed in a car accident last summer at the age of 18. "Every memory is special."
Dombroskie, who attended the event with SUNCOM Industries participants Julie Hartley, Susan Mowery and John Yocum, said the playground will be a destination for many.
"Not only will we use it, but we want to come once a week and clean it up," she said. "We'll work at the site and get to play."