When my family moved to Georgetown, TX in late Summer 2017 we gave up having a playground/park space within walking distance of our house to gain a gorgeous, large back yard and quiet street. At the time, we thought we had found the perfect place to slowly remodel, raise our three boys, and make our own. When we moved in, my husband and I worried a bit that there wouldn’t be children for the boys to play with. That concern quickly went away as our yard became a gathering place for numerous boys around the neighborhood. We had selected a neighborhood full of boys close in age! As I met some of the other families, we discussed the desire to have a playground close by for the kids to play on. Having just moved into a new house that needed some immediate remodeling with two boys, 2 and under while trying to run a small business, the idea of a playground went on the back burner. When my son, Kade, died unexpectedly 8 months later, the idea of a park came back to me full force. I picked up the phone a couple days after Kade died and called the Georgetown Parks and Recreation Department. I told them I wanted to build a park in memory of my son. To my surprise, I received a welcome response of we would love to work with you on this project. So began an incredible journey of grief, love, and hard work. I want to share with you what it really takes to build a park, because honestly, I really didn’t know when I started.
Step One: Create a non-profit to fundraise the funds needed to accomplish building a park. When your child dies, people want to help. Everyone feels helpless in such a tragic and overwhelming situation. For me, if I kept moving the pain was manageable. I guess in a way, I was running from the pain. I was terrified that if I stopped, even slowed down, I would be consumed and never recover from the immense life altering pain I was and still am experiencing. So, I kept moving. People had said, “if you need anything let me know”. It’s hard to reach out and ask for help, even on a good day in the best of circumstances. However, when you want something badly enough, you find the courage to ask.
I found someone to help file the non-profit paperwork and help begin to design the framework for what was to become The Playful Child Foundation. I learned quickly that in order to build a public park you would need to have the ability to raise large amounts of money and be able to enter into contracts with builders, designers, engineers, the city, and other necessary parties. When you create a non-profit, you don’t want to make it a one project and done thing. So, I had to decide what our work would include outside of building a park. What deeper problem was I working to solve by building a park? Why was play so important? What does the park bring to the community? These questions were not easy to answer all at once and the answers have developed and evolved a bit as I begin to work on healing my own heart.
Richard Branson is quoted as saying, “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes-then learn how to do it later!” Well, I took this advice to heart. I reached out to another grieving mother and talked with her about how she started a non-profit in memory of her son. I began to contact people I had worked with while teaching and asked for advice and help. I have learned so much. I have made a lot of mistakes and been promised many things that haven’t happened or worked out. However, there has always been a force keeping me moving toward the goal, even when things become difficult, frustrating , and overwhelming, and I want to quit. Creating a successful non-profit is a lot of work. I started reaching out to people who expressed an interest in helping me build and grow a non-profit. Essentially, I started a new business. I organized a wildly successful hat drive in Kade’s memory during the Fall of 2018. Our goal had been to get 50 hats donated. The drive brought in over 200 hats that were donated to 3 different organizations!
By late December 2018, all the paperwork had been submitted and The Playful Child Foundation received IRS non-profit 501c3 status. We were now official!
Stay tuned to read about what came next in the process of building the Kade Damian Healing Hearts Park.