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Leesburg's Butterfly Kisses a winner

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Two weeks ago, Traci Henry still felt confident public support for her cause would not waver.

She was right.

Word came down Wednesday morning that Butterfly Kisses was successful in its pursuit of a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant.

"I'm overwhelmed and shocked at the involvement of the community and every state," Henry, the leader of the movement, said shortly after getting the final word. "I haven't stopped crying."

Motivated by her son, who has cerebral palsy, Henry formed a playgroup for disabled children and their families -- which is currently 75 families strong. At the same time, she was also determined to have a playground built for those who would normally have difficulty using standard playground equipment -- which led to the campaign.

"The next step is to start planning," Henry said.

Land for the playground has been donated, along with labor and some materials. Contact has been made with two companies regarding equipment so far.

"All the money will be used to purchase the equipment," Henry said.

An architect has also offered to design it. It will sit on the same property as the new Leesburg Church of God -- a site that encompasses a total of more than 10 acres.

"The land has been cleared, and the playground will sit in front of the church," Henry said. "(The church officials) said I have total control, but the land will stay in their name."

There is a verification process Henry will have to undergo with Pepsi. Once she receives the money, she will have roughly 12 months to use it.

"It won't take long to get the money, but I still have to do paperwork," Henry said.

The grant campaign initially started in October, with the deadline to vote being Oct. 31. The effort immediately rolled over into November and ultimately concluded late Tuesday.

"There were a lot of voters that jumped on in the last week," Henry said. "It makes your heart warm to know there are people out there who care.

"(The playground) will not just be for Lee County residents. It's open to anyone who wants to use it."

It's not clear at this point when the playground will be up and running, but Henry said it likely won't be too long.

"I'm definitely not one to wait around, so as fast as I can get it done ..." she said.

Pepsi gives away $1.3 million each month to fund various projects. Butterfly Kisses needed a top 10 standing to win the $50,000. When voting ended, the group had the No. 8 spot.