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Wheelchair-accessible swing fund reaches goal

TURNERS FALLS — An area nonprofit has raised the cash, $15,000 in less than five months, to bring a wheelchair-accessible swing to Unity Park.

A Friend to Friend, a small western Massachusetts charity, began the campaign in late June and Lesley Cogswell of Montague — one of the group’s many directors and a Gill-Montague Regional School Committee member — announced this week a final donation had met the exact goal.

The campaign was inspired by a local family, the Norwoods.

Heather Norwood of Turners Falls mentioned in a Facebook post that her 5-year-old, Anna, could use the new swings in Unity Park but her 9-year-old, Jacob, could not.

Jacob has a rare genetic disorder that obliges the use of a wheelchair, and he can’t support himself in a swing.

The Australian-manufactured specialty swing is accessible by ramp and carries the wheelchair on a sturdy platform, and the organizers say it should be the only such accessible swing in the area once installed in the park, between First and Third streets.

A Friend to Friend had envisioned a fall 2014 installation, but Cogswell said it now hopes to move closer to early summer, depending on shipping.

The $15,000 covers purchase of the swing and shipment from overseas, but not installation.

The group is hoping companies will step forward to donate materials and services.

Cogswell said the installation will require excavation, concrete, pour-in-place rubber flooring and fencing. Purchase and shipment will wait until December, when Cogswell wrote the company will have a swing set that is fully compliant with American standards.

Numerous individuals and many local businesses and organizations contributed to the effort, including the Montague Elks Lodge, Gill-Montague Education Fund, and many anonymous donors through fundraisers hosted by the Second Street Baking Co. on Fourth Street, Jake’s Tavern on Avenue A and others.

The final donation came in the form of a $2,605 grant from the JEHH Memorial Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to the legacy of Jill E. Harrington Hanzalik and established by her brother, Adam Harrington of Bernardston.

Jacob’s parents, Heather and Greg Norwood, submitted the grant application and Cogswell said Harrington and the board on Monday approved a grant for the exact amount needed to reach the $15,000 goal.

“We are thrilled with the outpouring of community support for this project. I have never been a part of something where you can truly say every single dollar has made an impact, until now,” Cogswell wrote. “We are beyond grateful that we have realized our goal.”

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