Oxford moves forward with plans for special needs playground equipment
● By Steven Hoffman
Paul Matthews couldn’t accept the idea that a child with special needs should have to sit on the sidelines and watch while a brother, a sister, or a friend glided down the sliding board or played on a swing set.
So last year, Matthews, a member of Oxford Borough Council, raised the idea of installing some playground equipment specifically for children with special needs at the Oxford Memorial Park. His colleagues on borough council were in support of the idea, and the borough’s Special Projects Committee started exploring ways that the equipment could be acquired.
“I’ve talked to many parents of children with special needs,” explained Matthews, “and they all tell me that they won’t take their children to the park because there is nothing there for them.”
On May15, a small group of community leaders gathered in the park to unveil details about the project.
Matthews runs the Eli Seth Matthews Foundation, which raises money in his son’s memory for research to cure childhood cancer. That foundation was able to make a small donation to get the project started, but it would take a lot of help to raise the $40,000 to $50,000 necessary to install the special playground equipment that would allow all children to enjoy themselves at the park.
After the issue was raised at a council meeting, Dr. Marilyn Knaub, the president of the Oxford Rotary Club, was talking to borough manager Betsy Brantner. Knaub asked Brantner if there were any projects that the Rotary could undertake that would be for the betterment of the Oxford community.
“Betsy told me about the need for this playground equipment, and I thought that was the perfect project for us,” Knaub said. “It’s an exciting project.”
The Oxford Rotary subsequently went through the process of forming a non-profit foundation.
Dr. Raymond Fischer, the former superintendent of Oxford schools and a longtime supporter of the Oxford Rotary, was enlisted to serve as the president of the Oxford Rotary Foundation.
“We’ve just established the Oxford Rotary Foundation,” explained Fischer. “We’re now able to raise funds through grants from other foundations, grant-writing, and private donations.”
Once the fundraising effort is a little further along, Oxford officials will schedule an official groundbreaking for the project.
The plan is to install the special-needs playground equipment right next to the existing equipment so that all the children will be playing together.
“It will all be connected,” said Matthews. “There is no other park in our area that has special-needs equipment. People from other communities will be coming here once we have this equipment.”
Brantner said that the project illustrates how the organizations in Oxford work together for the good of the community.
“It’s one more example of how all of Oxford’s agencies work together,” she said.
The effort isn’t far enough along to put the project out to bid, so the exact costs of the project are still unknown.
“Whatever it is,” said Matthews, “we’re going to make it happen.”
Contributions to be used for the purchase of the playground equipment for special-needs children can be sent to the Oxford Rotary, P.O. Box 27, Oxford, PA 19363.
For more information about how you can help the effort to bring special-needs playground equipment to the Oxford Memorial Park, email borough manager Betsy Brantner at manager@Oxfordboro.org.