‘This is a real gift to the children of Oxford’
● By Steven Hoffman
A girl climbed to the top of the sliding board and slid down, grinning all the way. At the swing set, several parents gently pushed their sons or daughters toward the soft blue sky. A group of children exuberantly played on the monkey bars. Other boys and girls raced around the playground on their way to their next adventure. The joyous noise of dozens of happy children at play filled the air.
Paul Matthews stood smiling, taking it all in.
“This is beautiful,” Matthews said. “This is amazing.”
This is exactly what Matthews envisioned when he first proposed the construction of an inclusive playground for Oxford Memorial Park. Matthews, a member of Oxford Borough Council, first raised the idea of adding playground equipment that would accommodate all children, including those with special needs, four years ago. Matthews said that he talked to many parents of children with special needs, and they would tell him that they wouldn’t take their children to the park because there was no equipment there that they could use. The idea that a child with special needs would have to sit on the sidelines and watch while a brother, sister, or a friend glided down the sliding board or played on the swing set was a motivating factor for Matthews and the many other people who contributed to the effort to bring an inclusive playground to Oxford. After years of work and planning, the dream finally became a reality on Sept. 30, when the new playground was officially unveiled with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The honor of cutting the ribbon on the new $155,000 playground, appropriately enough, went to Barbara Ross, a 96-year-old resident of Lower Oxford Township who contributed greatly to the playground effort.
Matthews explained that Ross initially wrote a check for $10,000. She wanted to keep the donation private, and didn’t want any fanfare or attention. But a few weeks later, when Ross wrote another check, this time for $40,000, Matthews knew that the significant contribution had to be publicly recognized. So when it was time for the ribbon-cutting, there was only one choice as to who would have the honor.
“She said that she wished somebody would have done this for her children,” Matthews explained.
The financial contributions that Ross made were only a part of her work toward bringing an inclusive playground to Oxford. Her granddaughter, Donna Hosler, explained that Ross, who will celebrate her 97th birthday in a few weeks, spent countless hours making hundreds of ornaments. The ornaments were sold for donations to the playground project at places like the Oxford Library and the Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. office.
After cutting the ribbon, Ross explained why she wanted to make sure that children in the area would finally have access to an inclusive playground.
“The children really need it, especially the ones in a wheelchair,” Ross said. “I had the money, and what do I need it for?”
While Ross helped the fundraising effort considerably, many individuals and businesses contributed to the cause.
“It took the community to come together to build this,” Matthews said, explaining that dozens of volunteers came together in August to build the playground once the equipment had arrived. Matthews thanked John Schaible and the borough’s public works department for their work on the playground area. He thanked borough manager Brian Hoover for his leadership on the project, and borough council and the citizens of Oxford for their support. Rudy Allen and Ryan Wood helped to do the excavating work, and Matthews singled them out as well.
Allen felt as Ross and Matthews did—that providing the playground to the children in the area was a worthwhile endeavor.
“It was well worth it this morning to see all the kids use the playground,” Allen said.
The Oxford Rotary Club’s charitable organization, the Oxford Rotary Foundation, led the effort to raise funding to make the project a reality.
“We want to thank the borough and the citizens of Oxford for allowing us to collaborate on this,” said Dr. Raymond Fischer, the former superintendent of schools for Oxford who was enlisted to serve as the president of the Oxford Rotary Foundation. “This was a great project for us. It took a lot of effort by a lot of people. This is a real gift to the children of Oxford.”
A sign unveiled during the ribbon-cutting recognizes many of the individuals and organizations who helped with the project. The contributors include Barbara Ross, Rudy Allen, the Bog Turtle Brewery, the Borough of Oxford, Bright Beginnings Learning Center, Cameron’s Hardware and Supply, CCRES, the children of Oxford, the Eli Seth Matthews Leukemia Foundation, Dr. Douglas Fasick, Ray and Nancy Fischer, the citizens of Oxford, Marilyn Hartman, James S. Herr Foundation, Hopewell EarlyAct and Oxford Area High School InterAct clubs, Dr. Marilyn Knaub, John McGlothlin, Scott Moran, R. Wood Excavating, Our Children Making Change, Oxford Area Foundation, Oxford Lions Club, Oxford Presbyterian Church Apple Festival, Oxford Women's Club, Rotary Club of Oxford, Rotary Foundation District 7450, Daniel P. Sacks (in memory of Morris and Ellen Sacks), Jahan Sheikholeslami and Susan C. Schwaneflugel, Kenneth and Ruth Ann Sumner, TCC/Verizon, David Trainor in memory of Charles L. Lewis, Van Dyke Insurance Company, and Richard and Rae Ann Wolfe.