Four years ago, at the age of 17, Samantha Furco attended her brother's football game at the William J. Farley Community Park behind the Schroeppel Town Hall near the village of Phoenix. It was there that she witnessed something that launched a mission in her young life.
Furco noticed a boy in a wheelchair watching other children having fun in a playground. But the child could not join them because his wheelchair could not access the playground which had a floor made of loose woodchips. Samantha says she went home that night and got on her computer to learn about special needs playgrounds.
Over the past four years, Samantha and her father Chris Furco have raised $57,000 in an effort to build a special needs playground in place of the existing one. Together, they have sponsored a number of fundraisers, established a not-for-profit organization and a website for the project.
Samantha, who worked with children in special olympic events, says special needs kids deserve the ability to play alongside other children.
Chris Furco says the project ran into two problems. He says the recent economic downturn had discouraged people from donating as much as they would like. He also says the original cost estimate of $60,000 proved to be too little. A special needs playground requires a soft floor made of rubber from such things as recycled tires.
Chris Furco says he was surprised to learn that the cost of the floor alone exceeds the cost of the playground equipment. They now have a goal of raising $160,000 for the project.
Samantha and Chris Furco continue to plan fundraisers including golf tournaments and rummage sales and will seek private donations. Samantha is now 21-years-old and attends Lemoyne College as a full time student. She also holds down a part time job. Whenever she gets the chance Samantha and her father plan more fundraisers in hopes of raising enough money for the playground.
After four years, both father and daughter say they will not give up on their mission to build a special needs playground.