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Local moms achieve goal of funding McLean Central Park playground renovation

(Updated at 12:45 a.m. on 12/22/2023) No holiday miracle was necessary for the McLean Central Playground Team to reach its goal of raising $400,000 to update the play equipment at their local park.

The group of moms announced on Tuesday (Dec. 19) that they have reached their fundraising target with days to spare before a year-end deadline set by the Fairfax County Park Authority, which is responsible for the planned renovation of the playground and tot lot at McLean Central Park (1468 Dolley Madison Blvd).

“We are amazed and humbled by the incredible generosity of our community and all of the partners who’ve supported us in achieving this milestone,” said Jessica Wu, one of seven mothers who collaborated on the fundraising campaign.

The park authority proposed a new playground for the 28-acre park as part of a development concept updated in 2022, but it only had enough funding — about $175,939 — to replace the school-aged equipment, leaving the slightly newer tot lot untouched.

When the park authority started soliciting public input on its concept in 2021, however, a group of moms led by McLean resident Cara Schantz began advocating for a more ambitious design. They wanted both facilities to be renovated, relocated the same place in the park and enhanced with accessible features.

The FCPA ultimately incorporated their design into its McLean Central Park development concept but tasked the moms with raising the additional funds needed to implement it.

Launched in early March, the fundraising campaign required “countless volunteer hours” spent on outreach to the community, meetings and organizing events that often involved partnerships with local businesses, according to a press release.

After hitting a lull around October, the effort got a boost from the McLean Community Center, which contributed $50,000, and the park authority, whose board approved a $20,000 grant. Organizers say the many smaller donations made by community members “helped significantly.”

“Every contribution, big and small, helped get us across the finish line,” Sarah Farzayee said, adding that she hopes the new playground “will stand as a symbol of community spirit and civic duty in Fairfax County.”

Expected to begin in spring 2024, the renovation will include updated equipment, more seating, poured-in-place rubber safety surfacing, fencing around the tot lot, sensory play options, an inclusive merry-go-round and more swings, including an adaptive tandem swing designed so that children and caregivers can stand face-to-face.

“Every playground should be accessible to children of all abilities,” mom Angie Golder said. “We hope that the new McLean Central Playground underscores the importance of inclusion in all public spaces.”

The playground team, which also includes Jenny Gregory, Lacey Obry and Rebecca Antzoulatos, says the Fairfax County Park Foundation, the park authority’s nonprofit supporter, can continue accepting donations until the second week of January at the latest. Any additional contributions “will be used to enhance the playground further.”

“We can’t wait to see the joy and excitement on the faces of children of all abilities and family and community members as they enjoy the renovated playground,” Gregory said.

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