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140 volunteers turn out to build Lee playground

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- One hundred forty people hauled cement, dug dirt and generally had a good time as they worked Saturday as they built Butterfly Kisses Special Needs Play Park.

The Lee County park on 3.5 acres at 120 E. Second Ave. in Leesburg is the brainchild of Traci Henry, a mother with a child who has special needs because of cerebral palsy.

Reasoning that children with special needs also have the need to laugh, play and create memories with their family, she set out to snag a $50,000 grant from Pepsi to build a park with playground equipment designed for children with special needs.

Pepsi grant in hand, Henry got a little help from her friends with the labor to build the park Saturday. Having a sharp accountant's pencil, she said the work had to be completed in one day.

"We have to pay for a supervisor to oversee us to keep the warranty on the equipment," Henry said. "We will get it done in one day, definitely."

Labor was not short as volunteers from various organizations such as the Lee County Sheriff's Office, Albany Police Department's AmeriCorps, Reeves Construction and Lee County High School did their bit in constructing the park.

The boys from Lee County High School's National Honor Society group took some lessons from the girls in the organization. As they assembled a small climbing wall, someone pointed out that with boys assembling the project, there wasn't a need to read instructions.

Looking up from the instructions she was reading, Laura Hegarty's voice dripped with sarcasm, "Exactly." She went back to reading the instructions.

Speaking from a special needs perspective, Claire Bernard said she understood the need for other children to have a place to play.

"I have my special needs because I'm deaf," Bernard said. "I'm here because I don't want other special needs kids to be left out of the fun in life."

The park could open a few days after the cement sets. It is adjacent the old Lee County soccer field where the sheriff plans to hold its Special Olympic Fundraiser Festival on May 14.