FAIRFIELD, Conn. – A new playground at Fairfield’s Penfield Beach began to take shape with horses and orca whales on Friday morning in honor of Sandy Hook victim Jessica Rekos.
This is one of 26 playgrounds being built by the charity, Sandy Ground Project Where Angels Play, and the fourth one built in Connecticut.
“This is a symbol of hope,” said charity president Bill Lavin of Elizabeth New Jersey. “This is the Rekos's family and Jessica’s gift to the community.”
Nearly 30 people from New Jersey and Connecticut descended on the small section of beach to help put together a playground that would make generations of children happy.
“Children will play here for generations because of a little girl named Jessica,” said Lavin.
Fairfield was chosen for a playground location not only because of the Reko’s family ties to the community but also because the area was so hard hit by Hurricane Sandy last October.
For contractor Rich Giordano, of New Jersey, building the playgrounds in honor of the Sandy Hook victims is his passion, and his company has donated its time and effort to building the 26 playgrounds. Originally, he said, the plan was to build all 26 built before the anniversary in December, but weather conditions over the summer stalled the efforts.
“But we’ll be close,” Giordano said. And as a father of five and grandfather of six, he said, “I work these playgrounds through Fathers Day and my birthday, and my kids are saying what do you want to do? And I say, 'Let's go build a playground!'”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal attended the ground-breaking and called the playground an inspirational and emotional gift to the town.
“This playground was meant to be here,” Blumenthal said, talking of Jessica’s love of horses and that Penfield Beach is one of the only beaches in the state that allows for horses to ride on the beach.
The plan is to have the beach finished by Saturday, Sept. 14, at 6 p.m. for a ribbon-cutting ceremony where families are welcome to attend and begin to use the playground.
“For me, if I build a house I take care of one family, I build a playground I got 500 kids that will enjoy it, and that’s why we did this,” Giordano said. “It’s the most amazing thing we ever touched.”