The New Meadowbrook Playground

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Annie

Glenn and I want to welcome all of you to the new Meadowbrook playground, affectionately known as Annie's Playground. We're so glad you could all be here for the official dedication. We know that many of you have already been playing here since the playground first opened on Sept. 25th. It's just so wonderful to see so many kids enjoying the playground. It's also great to see people meeting each other here, making connections with other families. This is what we'd hoped for, and we are quite overwhelmed that it has actually happened.

This playground would never have been built if not for the many, many people who gave so generously of their time and money. We are deeply grateful to everyone who contributed in any way. We especially appreciate the efforts of everyone who helped to assemble the playground equipment and install tiles this summer. It was amazing to see so many people working together, some days in the hot sun, other days in the rain. Though many of us didn't know each other at first, we became a community with a common goal. It was a truly great and memorable experience.

We want to take this chance to mention a few individuals who went over and above the call of duty for this project. The first is Janet Wilson. Almost three years ago, I called the Meadowbrook Community Center and talked to Janet, who was the recreation coordinator there at that time. I had a request: Could the community center set up a fund that would go towards renovating the old playground here, which is just across the street from our house. Our daughter Annie had recently passed away, and she had loved playgrounds. Since that phone call, Janet has given freely of her abundant energy, creativity, and loyalty. She has been a constant source of encouragement and support. Over the past few months, Janet and her husband Geno have spent countless hours at the playground, expertly assembling equipment, installing tiles, and helping complete the finishing touches. For us, you two are and will always be part of this place.

I'd like to mention everything that Tammie Conder has done for this project -- but there's so much, it wouldn't be possible. We are eternally grateful to Tammie for her dedication to this playground. Many of you know what an amazing job she did planning and organizing the community work parties this summer. NO ONE other than Tammie could have handled all those details so well. It is because of Tammie's common sense and ability to deal with problems that the work parties were so productive, and more importantly so much fun. We so appreciate Tammie's hard work, generosity and sensitivity.

Janet and Tammie are part of a small group of community volunteers that we call the Friends of Annie's Playground. This little group met at the community center the first Monday every month for two years. We planned and designed the playground, did fundraising and outreach. We are so grateful to the people who made time to be a part of the group. Dean Lambert attended the very first playground meeting with his son Parker, and helped out in so many ways throughout the entire process. Bryan Johns has also been a loyal playground supporter, helping any way that he could. We also thank Meghan Peterka, Justin Kurihara, and Joni Ross for their help and ideas over the years. Special thanks to Mary Anderson, who drew the perfect logo for the playground based on what I told her about Annie. And to Kiki Hendren, who worked so hard to make our auction a success last year.

I'm really going to miss these working with all these people -- they made this really complicated and seemingly endless process actually fun. At our meetings, everyone shared their thoughts and ideas freely, listened to each other with our hearts, and laughed a lot. It was somewhat chaotic, with all our kids yelling as they played in the next room. Thank you for doing whatever needed to be done to help make it happen. We will miss all of you, and think of you whenever we visit the playground.

We'd like to thank some non-community members, who have also worked long and hard on this project. We hope that you will consider yourselves to be honorary Friends of Annie's Playground. It's been great to work with Randy Robinson, our landscape architect from Seattle Parks and Recreation. We were lucky to have Randy to work on our design -- he's had tons of experience and contributed a lot of good ideas and sound advice. The design process for this playground was an interesting collaborative effort. At Randy's first Friends of meeting, he asked us to describe our artistic vision for the playground. Basically, we didn't have one. We just wanted just lots of equipment so that kids from preschool all the way through high school would have something to play on. Later, he presented us with several playground equipment plans, but we just couldn't get excited about any of them. When we finally found a company we liked, Landscape Structures, we wanted to include practically everything in their catalog. And when we came up with the theme of northwest wildlife, we complicated everything by adding lots of art elements. Randy, we thank you for incorporating almost our entire wish list into this playground. It turned out just right.

We also want to say thank you to Heather Haskins of Architect Creations. Heather gave invaluable advise to help us choose the really fun climbing structures and great colors for our Landscape Structures equipment. It was a great pleasure to work with her.

Steve Roache, our tile artist, also worked hard to put all of our ideas into the artistic elements of the playground. Last spring, Steve led workshops for the community to make most of the artistic tiles you see on the creek wall and tree bench. During the construction phase, Steve guided us in the installation of the tile work and construction of the tree bench. Steve worked with Anthony Kauffman to build the caves, and with Renee Marceau, who did the tile work on the heron bench. We are grateful to Steve for giving us this very special opportunity to create a beautiful and meaningful place for this community to enjoy. The artwork wasn't easy, but we're glad we did it.

We are indebted to the Dept. of Neighborhoods Matching Fund, which granted us $86,000 towards the playground. We are so grateful to Allynn Ruth for her honest and forthright advise about how to successfully apply for the matching grant. She helped motivate me to do what was necessary to get the job done. We also want to thank Allynn for being such a strong advocate for us, as well as a constant source of encouragement and support. We're grateful to Bill Keller and the Associated Recreation Councils for making Annie's Playground an official Friends of group, overseeing the playground fund, and for handling the financial transactions. We also want to thank Lee Bicknell and Pam VandeWeghe of the Meadowbrook Comm. Center, and Maureen O'Neill of Seattle Parks for their support for this project.

My parents, Rita and Jerry Frischer, deserve a very special recognition and thanks. They have spread the word of the project far and wide. They spent many hours preparing for the auction, and my mom wrote several successful grant applications. During the construction phase, Rita and Jerry were here, as well as Glenn's parents, Eizo and Aiko Yasuda and brother Stan. They all pitched in to help with every job, run errands, and provide last minute childcare. We'll never forget the long hours they worked in extreme heat to help build this playground. We're so glad that they could be here to help make this dream come true. We also want to thank my sister Susan Norman, for developing the playground web site, and for providing much emotional support.

Glenn and I have been partners in every aspect of the playground project -- that's the way it had to be. We are thankful for our kids Nate and Sophie, who went to every playground meeting and have been so enthusiastic about the playground. They inspired us to keep going, and they reminded us why this playground is so important. Kids and their families need places where they can just have fun, where life is simple and full of joy, where strangers can become immediate friends. This was how our sweet Annie felt about life and about people. Her joyfulness brought such light into our own lives. That's what we're hoping this playground brings to other people. And lots of happy memories too.