CENTRAL SQUARE — Extraordinary Acres Playground at Van Lieu Park in Central Square, the community’s first all-inclusive playground, will have its public grand opening from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 8. Rain date: Sunday, Aug. 29 at the same time.
The playground project was developed by Girl Scout Troop 10871 of Service Unit 108 in Central Square, part of the Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways Council.
Built at Gerald P. Van Lieu Park on Wilson Road in the town of Hastings, the playground is designed for children of all abilities and their families. The community is invited to the grand opening which will have free snacks (one bag of popcorn or cotton candy per family, free water and soda, while supplies last), live entertainment (music by Aaron Carpella, Train Wreck Prophets from Christian Community Church and Jammin Beats DJ Service), free face painting, food items for purchase from Big Awesome Barbecue food truck, carnival games, Curls the Clown, and candy prizes for the kids.
The media is invited to the dedication and ribbon-cutting from noon to 12:30 p.m. before the community celebration. Guest speakers include Harry Sharp on behalf of the Van Lieu family; Tony Bush, Town Supervisor, Town of Hastings; members of Troop 10871; Girl Scout volunteer, troop leader and project manager Katie Haberer; Girl Scout volunteer and project advisor Heather Stevens; Alexandra Harvey-Sprague, pediatric occupational therapist and project advisor; Sharon Bauer, past president of the Lioness Club of Central Square and project advisor; Pastor Bob of Christian Community Church; and JoAnne Morak, Director of Development, GSNYPENN.
The initial playground project was created by four local Girl Scouts — Molly Giblin, Angilee Haberer, Rachael Fonger and Sophia Jurenko. In 2018-19, they researched and devised a site plan and concept for the playground for their Girl Scout Silver Award. To earn the highest award for Girl Scout Cadettes (grades six-eight), girls develop a Silver Award project to make their community better in the process. Molly, Angilee, Rachael and Sophia researched areas to place an inclusive playground. They designed the playground with community insight to create a universally accessible and sensory-rich space to meet the widest range of needs and help strengthen their community. They worked with advisors Town Supervisor Tony Bush and Councilman John Donohue with the town of Hastings and Joe Denzak from Denzak Recreational Design & Supply.
In August 2019, the project was one of 200 semi-finalists in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist® grant competition. While it did not earn enough votes for a grant, the Girl Scout team to-date has raised $82,795 during phase I of the project — of which they earned $30,795 by conducting fundraisers, received $5,000 in grants and a $5,000 donation from Reymore Chevrolet to install all-ability basketball hoops. The remainder of the funding is from donated goods and services. The estimated total cost and funds raised will be close to $135,000 when completed.
Troop 10871’s project team includes 21 local Girl Scouts — Nicole Clasen, Savannah Cocopoti, Julianna Ficarra, Amie Flitcroft, Rachael Fonger, Molly Giblin, Addison Gloude, Alex Gloude, Gabby Gloude, Nicole Graham, Kelli Griep, Angilee Haberer, Lily Jackson, Jada Johnson, Sophia Jurenko, Jenna Lewis, Angelina Lougnot, Abigail Mullen, Angelina Petitto, Laurie Starusnak and Leona Vryhof.
“Our Girl Scouts have been working tirelessly in a variety of ways to welcome the community to Extraordinary Acres,” says troop leader Katie Haberer.
When the playground opens on Aug. 8, it will include an ADA-compliant sidewalk that wraps throughout the park and connects to the parking lot. An archway welcomes guests to the playground. Nearby, a rounded area holds three pieces of sensory-rich musical play equipment — casaba, conga and concerto vibes. This area also includes a sensory panel with games appropriate for ages two-18. The remembrance area paver project was created by the Lioness Club of Central Square.
Next is a multi-court with two accessible goal-setter basketball hoops featuring a crank that allows baskets to be lowered and raised easily for players of all abilities and two portable soccer goals accessible seasonally. Ten benches for seating are located throughout the park and were built by the members of Troop 10871 with the help of Home Depot. Each was purchased by a donor that will be acknowledged on a bronze plaque located on the bench.
Girl Scout Troop 10871 recognize the following community donors and partners for their support:
Akropolis, Central Square
All Mixed Up
Advanced Automotive, Central Square
American Legion Post 915
Bardoun Land Surveying
Barnes & Cone
Barton & Loguidice
Billy Whittaker Cars & Trux
Bob Adams, The Wolfe Radio Show
Christian Community Church
Cicero Golf Store
Dave’s Equipment Center
Denzak Recreational Design & Supply
DND Striping Services
Dusty’s Outdoor Service
Earl Becker Sand & Gravel
Gary Berkowitz, State Farm Insurance
Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways
Home Depot, Clay
House Mining & Aggregates
Jammin Beats DJ Service
Lasnicki Landscaping & Nursery
Lioness Club of Central Square
Lions Club of Central Square
North Syracuse Lawn & Snow
Oswego County Fair
Oswego City-County Youth Bureau and the NYS Office of Children and Family Services
Paul Davis Restoration of North Country
People’s Choice Auto
Red Onion Grocery & Pizza
Royal Flush Portables
Salon Divine Nails & Spa
Sweet-Woods Memorial Co.
Tops Friendly Markets, Airport Plaza
Town of Hastings
Two Guys from Italy
Vitale & Robinson
“Girl Scout Troop 10871 would also like to thank all of the additional donors and community members who have supported Extraordinary Acres in one way or another. You are all community champions! Together, we’ve made this dream a reality for our community,” adds Haberer on behalf of the project team.
Troop 10871 hopes Extraordinary Acres will be selected as one of 200 semi-finalists in this year’s State Farm Neighborhood Assist competition. They hear the week of Aug. 9, just after the grand opening. If selected, they hope to gain enough online votes for a $25,000 grant to purchase and install an inclusive whirl so that children of all abilities can enjoy the thrills of spinning together.
The spinner is built level with the ground, making it easy to board with space for up to two wheelchairs at once. An additional single seat provides extra physical support for children or caregivers, while children of differing heights can hold onto sloping handrails for added security. Information regarding online voting will be shared at a later date should Extraordinary Acres be selected as a semi-finalist.
For more information about Girl Scout Troop 10871 and Extraordinary Acres, or to set up interviews, contact Katie Haberer at 315-380-8859 or email@example.com.