Play for All Fund Pavilion to open in Deerfield Park

Play for All Fund Pavilion to open in Deerfield Park

The Deerfield Park concession stand at 1 William J. Hawkins Jr. Trail, will soon be taken over by the Play for All fundraising group employing special needs students to sell refreshments, and proceeds will go toward buying inclusive playground equipment. (Breeze photo by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SMITHFIELD – Smithfield’s Play for All Fund is kicking off a new fundraiser to bring accessible equipment to Smithfield playgrounds, employing volunteer youths with special needs in the concession stand at Deerfield Park.

Town Manager Randy Rossi said the group teamed up with the Smithfield Recreation Department to extend operating hours at the concession stand, and will begin serving refreshments this Friday, Sept. 3, from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

Special needs students from the high school will earn real-world experience by working in the booth, Rossi said. He said he hopes to continue opening the stand weekly.

“It’s un-utilized space. It’s a great collaboration to get them out and provide a service to people using the park,” he said.

Previously, the Smithfield Youth Soccer Association ran the concession stand during games, but has handed over responsibilities to Play for All.

Smithfield Recreation Director Robert Caine said the concession stand will change its name to the Play for All Pavilion, and if staffed, will run the stand during soccer games as well as during the day.

Caine said he hopes to expand the concession stand hours once students are back at school and job programs are back in operation.

All proceeds will go to Play for All Fund, which has raised more than $20,000 for two pieces of equipment at Deerfield Park, including an accessible swing and glider.

Caine said he and childhood friend John Salois came up with the idea when thinking of ways to keep the concession stand open through the day when residents use the park. He said he wanted to open the concession stand during the day for many years, and this is the best-case scenario.

“We really want to get this open. It’s a win-win for us. The playground is more inclusive and these kids get job experience,” he said.

Salois and his son, Christian, thought to add to the playground to make it more inclusive in 2019, beginning a fundraiser to purchase an adaptive swing for Deerfield Park. Later, Jenn and Carl Martone of the Martone Group contacted the town to set up a second fundraiser, held at Doumato Jewelers in 2019, which raised enough money for the second piece of equipment.

Salois said inclusive play is important to give youths the same opportunities as other children at the playground. He said special needs children often have obstacles that prevent them from playing on the same playground, and inclusive play is beneficial for all children.

“It allows children to view the world through a different, more diverse lens. Kids with a diverse range of abilities playing together in the same spot will develop a sense of equality and togetherness they will never experience if they remain separated in play,” Salois said.

If successful, Rossi said the group will be able to apply for grant opportunities to expand its reach.

“What’s better than going for a walk in the park and buying a Gatorade or snack and helping a good cause,” he said.

To donate, mail checks payable to The Play for All Fund to Smithfield Town Hall, 64 Farnum Pike, Smithfield, RI 02917.