Gregory’s Playground was inspired by Gregory Michael Fotia. This sweet little boy suffered from a disorder called West Syndrome. He was multiply disabled and confined to a wheelchair his entire life. In his short time on earth, Gregory inspired change and acceptance for all children living with disabilities. He was the reason a local non-profit The Children’s Relief Fund was founded in 1991.
On one of their many visits to the Children’s Hospital at the MUSC, Gregory’s family stayed at the Ronald MacDonald house where his mother Rose discovered they had a handicapped accessible playground. When she returned to Hilton Head, she approached the Island Rec Center about building a special playground!
Together with The Kiwanis Club and many volunteers, the first handicapped accessible playground in our area was built. Over the years, the Children’s Relief Fund provided funding to upgrade and maintain the playground enjoyed by thousands of children. After Gregory passed away in Oct of 2000, the playground was dedicated to him. The playground was a place where all children, no matter what their ability can play and form everlasting friendships.
This year, the Island Recreation Center is undergoing an extensive renovation and the playground was taken down.
It is now our mission, with the help of the Kiwanis Club to once again rebuild Gregory’s Playground and his legacy.
“Of course you now realize why this project is so important to me and this community! This playground will be state of the art and allow all children at all ability levels to play together and just be kids! Projects like this enhance the lives of all our children and help brake down the barriers that once existed for individuals with disabilities!” – Rose Fotia
Every person has a purpose on this earth and Gregory’s purpose was to make the lives of disabled children in our area better. To give them opportunities that didn’t exist here in our area before him. To bring happiness to their families. He was truly an angel on earth!
The Kiwanis Club of Hilton Head and the Palmetto Kiwanis Club are excited to announce the Gregory’s Playground presented by Kiwanis Clubs. This project is a $550,000 inclusive playground that will not only have the latest in children’s playground equipment but will also include features for children living with disabilities and wheelchair accessible surfacing.
The location of the playground is at the Hilton Head Island Recreation Center. At this site there will be a beautiful picnic shelter equipped with picnic tables surrounded by basketball courts, soccer fields and public restroom facilities. The addition of a playground would make this space a complete place to play for community members of all ages and abilities.
The Gregory’s Playground presented by Kiwanis Clubs will have play structures for preschool age children as well as children 5-12 years of age. It will have double disc swings, approximately 6 smaller playground toys with seesaw and spinning features and an asphalt path to the picnic shelter.
This project upholds the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association’s vision of a full range of accessible recreational opportunities for all ages and abilities with a commitment to meeting the challenges of today and the opportunities of the future. Together in partnership the Kiwanis Clubs and The Children’s Relief Fund are committed to providing diverse and accessible recreational opportunities that contribute to the health and well being of the community as a whole.
“Gregory’s Playground is special in a lot of ways,” said Island Recreation Center Executive Director, Frank Soule, in his interview with the Hilton Head Sun. “We’ve had it on our site here, it seems like forever.”
An online Legacy of Play contest begins May 15, sponsored in part by Kiwanis International, to potentially win $25,000 for the playground. Individuals can vote daily at https://wyng.io/AJC97V. The contest ends May 31.
If you would like to help even more the Kiwanis Club is inviting community partners to Sponsor a Piece of the Playground; sections of the Gregory’s Playground presented by Kiwanis Clubs are available for sponsorship. Should you wish to Sponsor a Piece of the Playground or have any questions about the project please contact Leah Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org
Help us “Climb our way to a Perfect Place to Play!”
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