story & photo
by Robert J. O’Shaughnessy
This past April, Mystic was honored to be the site of the Grace McDonnell Playground, part of the Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play. Grace was one of the 20 children who lost their lives in Newtown on December 14, 2012. The playground was built as a tribute to her and her love of art and the beach. Grace’s parents, Lynn and Chris, chose Williams Beach behind the Mystic YMCA as the location for the playground as they were engaged in Mystic and Grace loved the beach. Bill Lavin of the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association coordinated the construction of the playground. Bill is the founder of the Sandy Ground Project and for him each of these playgrounds is a labor of love. Each one is built to reflect the personality of the teacher or child for whom it was dedicated.
One of the unique features of the playgrounds is the addition of a bell. Bill explained that some of the project members loved the line “When a bell rings, an angel gets it wings” from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. A donated bell was incorporated into each playground.
Bill Lavin was the emcee for the dedication of Grace’s Playground and introduced a number of speakers who welcomed the crowd and thanked the volunteers. Lynn McDonnell thanked everyone involved in the project telling them “Your gifts of love, friendship and strength have lifted our family.” After the ribbon cutting by Grace’s parents and her brother Jack, the playground was open to the many children who were in attendance.
For Information or donations, contact Where Angels Play Foundation at 732.858.1726 or visit www.thesandygroundproject.org.