NIPOMO, Calif. - A dream to build a one-of-a-kind park in Nipomo is slowly, but steadily moving closer to becoming reality.
"It's a special needs park," said Jack's Helping Hand board member Russ Lovell. "It's a place where families can go and have fun with their kids and really be like all the other kids."
To be built on 33 acres of land that hugs the edge of the Nipomo Mesa overlooking the Santa Maria Valley, the park is the vision of Paul and Bridget Ready, who lost their three-year-old son Jack to brain cancer in 2004.
To honor their son, the Readys formed a non-profit organization called "Jack's Helping Hand," with the mission to assist families with special needs children and kids who are battling life-threatening illnesses.
In addition to creating a number of programs to benefit families, the organization came up with a plan to create park where these children can play in a facility specifically designed with their needs in mind.
In 2005, plans were revealed to build the Jack Ready Imagination Park. During the 11 years since, the organization has been working hard to raise the $5 million needed to bring the park to completion.
"This park, there's nothing like it, north or south. It will be the first park of its kind on the Central Coast. There's no park like this within 150 miles," said Lovell.
Once fully completed, the park will feature a number of differewnt features that are still awaiting construction.
"It has special needs playground equipment," said Lovell. "It has an equine center, there's a memorial garden, there's picnic areas and BBQs, there's hard courts and then the fields, for soccer, etc. There will be a gazebo for all kinds of events."
For families like the Scangarellos of Shell Beach, the park will be much welcomed.
"It's finally a park we'll feel safe we can bring Joey to and comfortable place to bring Joey to," said Kristen Scangarello, whose son Joey suffers from delayed development.
Joey is a very happy and active six-year-old boy, who loves to play. Unfortunately, Scangarello says other parks in the area make it difficult for Joey to play safely.
"There are parks that have a lot of open areas that Joey can fall through, so there's a lot of safety that still needs to be learned, so I'm always on the structures with him, and as far as the comfortability for our family, we'll able to come to this park with other families in the same situation and not be judged."
Two years ago, with much fanfare, ground was broken at the park. Last year, the first few steps of construction finally began.
"We've got all of the infrastructure in," said Lovell. "We should have power this year or early next year. Once we have that, we can start doing some of the fun stuff and that's the playground structure and the equine center, the hard courts, the playgrounds, that's what is next."
With a cost of $1.1 million, the playground structure is sure to be the park's highlight.
"There is not anything like this as far as other parks," said Scangerello. "The company that Jack's Helping Hand is using for this play structure specifically makes structures for kiddos with disabilities, special needs, delays and we can't wait for that availability to come to Joey."
Building the playground is the final step in the first phase of the project. Artist renderings show a playground full of innovative structures that will spark children's imagination. With the plans finalized and approved, now comes the hard part for Jack's Helping Hand.
"We're ready to go," said Lovell. "We have everything lined up. Everything is ready to go, we just need money, we just need money to get this built."
To help generate funds, Jack's Helping Hand is holding its annual golf tournament tomorrow on Friday, Sept. 9 at Monarch Dunes Golf Course. The yearly event typically earns more than $100,000.
Lovell notes the money earned will be a big boost to the park's immediate future.
"I think by next year, we're going to see a lot more green," said Lovell. "We're going to see the beginning of some playground equipment. I think the community is going to realize that this park is special, that it's needed and I think we'll step up with enough money to get to the next spot."
With the park moving towards the next step in its construction, excitement is building with the families that will be benefit the most when its completion.
"It's very moving and exciting and I think it's great that the Ready family can do this with everyone's help," said Scangarello.
To contribute to the Jack Ready Imagination Park, call (805) 547-1914 or email email@example.com