Where are you originally from?: I am originally from the small town of Phoenix, a little town right outside of Syracuse.
What are you studying at Le Moyne and why?: I am studying Human Services as Le Moyne College. The reason I am studying Human Services is because I want to continue on the path I have been and helping people. I love to help others and I want to do that for as long as I can!
What is this amazing project I hear you have been working on?: My project is a nonprofit organization that I started about four years ago, my senior year in high school. It is called, Special Needs Playground, Inc. My organization is aimed at building playgrounds for children and adults with disabilities. The playgrounds that I build will be accessible for wheelchairs, walkers, and safe enough for any fall. It is important that every person is able to have a safe and reliable place to play. If you are in a wheelchair you should be able to roll up to the playground and roll around it and even on it. The playgrounds will have wide enough ramps for the wheelchair and walkers to get onto and the surfacing will be poured rubber!
Wow, that’s such a sweet thing. What inspired you to start Special Needs Playground, Inc.?: What inspired me to do this project was a little boy in a wheelchair that was not able to play. I saw him sitting at the playground and he was watching his siblings and his friends play and was not able to. I thought to myself that that is not right and something needs to be done. So I went home and did some research and it all began from there.
What keeps you motivated? Do you have certain set short term goals for yourself and the project?: A lot of things keep me motivated. The fact that I can play on a playground, a child should be able to. I like helping people and it makes me sad that there is not a place for children and even adults to play. I have a lot of short term goals. I want to get my first playground built by next summer. Then eventually I am going to get more around the country for ALL children!
How far along are you so far and how long do you think it will take to finish?: So far, I have raised $56,000. My original goal was to have $70,000/ As the years went on and things started to increase and we needed more things, I had to increase the price. My goal now is $100,000. I am hoping that someone from the government will step up and so something, maybe give me a grant. I have applied for grants and have not received any yet. I think that by the end of next summer I am going to have the playground built. That does not mean I am done though, I plan on building lots more throughout the country!
That is A LOT of money. How do you raise the money?: All this money has come from me personally doing fundraisers. They have ranged from Spaghetti Dinners, bowling fundraisers, golf tournaments, magic shows, and people in the community donating.
College life is crazy, what else do you have going on? And how do you find the time to continue with this project?: College life is crazy, that’s for sure! Obviously I attend Le Moyne college, yes full time! I also work about 20-25 hours a week at a part time job. In the mean time I try to find time to hang out with my boyfriend of six years, but of course he understands. He has been with me through all of this so he knows how much work it has been. I also volunteer at the Special Olympics on Tuesday! I like to be busy.
Well it is nice that you have someone who has supported you throughout! Do you plan on staying around here after graduation?: After graduation, I plan on building more playgrounds. Where? Who knows now, but I will see when I get there. I would like to have at least two done in each state, so I will move and move until this happens!
What are your long term goals with both the project and your own life?:
Long term goals for the project: As I have already said, I plan on going state to state and building playgrounds. I want to do at least two playgrounds in each state.
My life: I would love to be a parole officer in a juvenile hall. I would love to get married and have kids someday as well. All that is so far ahead though and I like to live for the day! I will see what life throws at me and go from there. For now, I plan to build playgrounds for ALL children and help people.