By: Elise Phillips Margulis
Wayne Township held a grand opening for their new all-inclusive playground in early June. Located on Greenrale Avenue in Rabbi Shai Schaknai Memorial Park, the state-of-the art play area offers swings, ramps, slides and tunnels that children of all abilities can play on and in.
Christopher Vergano, Mayor of Wayne, is very proud of the township’s adaptive playground. “The new Inclusive playground was designed for children of all abilities to be able to have fun, smile and interact with their peers.”
He continued, “We are glad to see the smiles on the children’s faces and hear their laughter as they enjoy the multi-faceted equipment at the playground. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy and this is the sole purpose of an inclusive playground. This park will serve as a model for other communities to follow. I am very proud to play a part in its creation.”
Tom Conete, owner of Conete Landscaping, donated the lovely landscaping that surrounds the play area. He attended the ribbon cutting with his wife Darlene and their special needs son, Jake.
The project began when Beth Marmolejos, a Wayne resident and former President of the Wayne Township Special Parents Association, asked Mayor Chris Vergano if a piece of adaptive equipment could be added to the original playground.
Her 20-year-old son has special needs, and she’s happy that many special needs programs and adaptive playgrounds exist now, because there weren’t too many when he was young.
Marmolejos explained that her motto is to propose solutions, not to simply complain or criticize. “Dreams come true and great things happen when we collaborate.”
Advocate and Former Councilwoman Lucy “Aileen” Rivera has also been actively engaged in Wayne’s special needs and developmentally disabled for decades. Her son is on the autism spectrum. She advocated for the playground and provided input for its design.
Rivera praised Township Park and Recreation Director Tim Roetman who designed the playground. “He put it together beautifully!”
Rivera informed Roetman that Wayne residents wanted to donate a plaque and bench in memory of Daniel Cupo, Vicky and Dan Cupo’s late son. Another special needs advocate, Lisa Tridente Minervini, collected the donations that funded Daniel’s memorial bench and plaque.
Rivera expressed gratitude to all of the people who contributed to the construction of the playground. “A special thank you to our Mayor Vergano, Tim Roetman- Parks and Recreation Director, for his expertise in building parks, as well as to Councilman Joe Scuralli, and the Council who voted in favor of this inclusive park in 2019! This is such a beautiful park!”
She added, “We live in a great community, and I am extremely happy that our special children will be able to enjoy this playground.”
Marmolejos has been involved in many other community improvement projects including the creation of a Passaic Special Needs Olympics, helping local businesses during the pandemic, and more.
She was surprised and delighted that her request for one piece of adaptive playground equipment resulted in an entire playground for children of all abilities. “When we all work together, we can accomplish so much good for humanity.”
The playground was funded by Wayne Township and Passaic County Open Space Funds.