The last of the New Jersey “Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play” playgrounds opened in Ocean City on May 18. It is the 22nd of 26 playgrounds built in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut in towns affected by Superstorm Sandy. Each playground is dedicated to one of the 26 victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conn.
The Ocean City playground is named in memory of Benjamin Wheeler. His parents, Francine and David Wheeler, as well as Benjamin’s brother, Nate, attended the playground’s opening.
Benjamin Wheeler dreamed of being an architect, a paleontologist, and a lighthouse keeper. It is his love of lighthouses that creates the focal point for the new playground and for Ben’s Lighthouse, an organization dedicated to the healing of Newtown youth. Visit BensLighthouse.org for more information on the group.
Dedication includes Ben’s family
Ben's brother Nate was named “foreman” of the Ocean City project. Nate, Francine, and David Wheeler helped to install a panel at the playground that contained four of Ben’s drawings.
Prior to the ribbon cutting, Ben’s mother sang “What a Wonderful World.” Ben, like his parents, was a talented musician who played the piano.
NJEA provides financial, volunteer support
NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan and NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Sean M. Spiller represented New Jersey’s teachers and educational support professionals at the opening. NJEA has partnered with the New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association Foundation (NJFMBA) to provide funds for the playgrounds.
During the ceremony, Blistan presented a $10,000, the last installment in a $90,000 commitment from NJEA to the Sandy Ground project. In addition to these funds, children from across the state made donations through the “Pennies for Play” program. More information about “Pennies for Play” can be found at njea.org/thesandyground.
In addition to NJFMBA and NJEA and its members, the Foundation to Save the Jersey Shore along with regional businesses and individuals have provided funds and donated their expertise, labor, and supplies to build the playgrounds.