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City officially designates land in Veterans Park for Mary's Magical Place

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"If the community backs this project, this could be one of the best all-inclusive, handicap accessible playgrounds in the country." - Peg Petrelli

City leaders voted unanimously last week to designate a piece of property in Veterans Park for an all-inclusive playground.

It was announced earlier this year that a playground in the park near the inline hockey rinks would be relocated in order to accommodate Mary's Magical Place - a $500,000 project designed to include children of all abilities and disabilities.

The project was conceived by friends and family members of 14-year-old Mary McAuley who died in September of 2015 from complications related to cerebral palsy.

A group of volunteers held their first fundraiser in March. Several civic groups soon joined the effort including the Hendersonville Rotary Club who hosted an inaugural half marathon earlier this year. Most recently, the Junior Service League held a Mr. Sumner County pageant to benefit the project.

The city's Board of Mayor and Aldermen officially designated the roughly one-third acre plot on Nov. 10 - the last meeting before a new board and mayor are sworn in on Nov. 29.

"This is a project close to my heart," said Ward 1 Alderman Peg Petrelli. Petrelli co-sponsored the resolution with Alderman Scott Sprouse of Ward 2.

Much like Mary, Petrelli's brother P.J. was non-ambulatory and non-verbal. Petrelli also grew up with Mary's mother, Rachel Appleton McAuley.

"If the community backs this project, this could be one of the best all-inclusive, handicap accessible playgrounds in the country," said Petrelli.

Although the playground will be designed for children with a spectrum of disabilities, Rachel McAuley noted it will be for all children.

McAuley said the group hopes to have raised $200,000 by the end of this year and aims to raise the full $500,000 by the middle of 2017.

Organizers are currently working with several companies that design playground equipment. Once the money is raised, the group will donate the money to the city which will in turn bid out and manage the project.

"As the year comes to an end, we are wanting and needing corporations to give to this project," said McAuley. "We have children waiting and wanting to come play."

For more information about Mary's Magical Place go to marysmagicalplace.org.

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