Mary Elizabeth McAuley was a very special young woman who touched the lives of many in the town of Hendersonville, Tennessee. People all over the Northeast suburb of Nashville knew Mary for her radiant smile and positive attitude that was so strong, it was practically contagious. Due to complications at birth, Mary was born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Unfortunately, Mary passed away in 2015, but in honor of her memory her family is raising funds to construct a state-of-the-art inclusive playground where all of Mary’s friends can play.
Mary’s parents Tommy and Rachel have been very creative when it comes to fundraising by hosting several events and working with local businesses. They have partnered with Middle Tennessee Audiology, who is donating $5 from every hearing test towards the playground. In addition, the family has organized a half-marathon, started a memorial brick drive and have secured sponsorship from several local companies. One of their biggest contributions for the playground came from winning the USA Today’s “A Community Thrives” grant contest. The $50,000 award helped put Mary’s Magical Place fundraising above their initial goal.
The playground will feature several wheelchair accessible pieces of equipment including a swing that doesn’t require children to transfer from their manual or power wheelchair, a roundabout style “Ability Whril” and a “Sway Fun Glider”. Other thoughtful inclusive features at Mary’s Magical Place include a musical instrument display, sign language mural, braille boards and sensory items for children with autism.
The city of Hendersonville has already set aside several acres of land in Veterans Park for the inclusive playground and has agreed to keep up with maintenance after construction is completed. The city will bid out the project later this year and hope to have the playground completed by May of 2018.
If you are interested in learning more about Mary’s Magical Place and keeping up-to-date with their progress please visit www.marysmagicalplace.org They are also still accepting memorial brick donations starting at $125.