It seems that every time I’m down, something about New London restores my faith. This time, it’s the coming together of a bunch of good people in a true labor of love for Where Angels Play at Riverside Park for Emilie Parker. Who could have imagined, during all the political turmoil over the sale of Riverside Park just a few short years ago, that this would-be throw away would become a beautiful tribute to the life of a little girl? And who better could we have given our park to but to Emilie and through her, back to our own children? Wow.
When you think about it, Emilie is the one that gave us a gift. She helped give us our park back in a real way, and she helped to make a lot of people come out, come together, and create something special. She gave us a chance to rise above. And she’s also given us a chance, in remembering and honoring her, to also honor the importance of children and families in our own community. Lately, we have really lost that.
These days, the focus on a successful community seems to turn on how many cars are downtown on a Saturday night or whether we can justifiably say that the crime rate is down by a half of a percent. While a busy downtown is important and we need to encourage and support our local businesses, dollar drafts on Saturday night or the Friday afternoon taco cart don’t make a community. The fact is that it takes kids and families to make a community. That fact became evident in seeing this project completed and supported. The families of New London are the ones who did it and made it happen. And to continue to come through for Emilie and her family, we need all of the other things that keep a community going, and that means keeping our streets and parks safe, clean, and gang and drug free. It’s not negotiable.
Good deeds are often thankless, and those who do them anyway are the real deal. I know it’s unlikely that some of our locals will get the public recognition that they deserve so this is my small attempt to thank and recognize those who’ve come together to make Emilie’s Playground a reality, to name a few: the New Jersey Firefighters, Wayne and Corina Venditto, Victor Spinnato, Ed Hallisey, Joe Nott, St. Joseph’s School Families, Karen Augrin, Fast Signs, New London Rec Department, Nancy Baude, Dave Sugrue and OBP, and I know that there are many more. (please people, email me so I add them). Thanks all, for giving us a way to honor Emilie and all of the other children and victims of that terrible day, and for restoring my faith in my community.