|By Debbie Gardner|
HAMPDEN Susan Rauscher's work is almost done.
She's hoping at least 10 more people will come forward and spend the $60-$75 to buy a personalized walkway brick by the April 1 deadline.
And she's looking for a few generous donors to help fund final repairs to the existing electrical systems and fence before the end of May.
Her goal: to have the renovations to Memorial Park which includes a new spray park completed by the town's annual Memorial Day parade.
"This is the final piece of what's been going on for three years," Rauscher told Reminder Publications."We're still $10,000 short of our $160,000 goal."
In memory of Devon
The Memorial Park project sprung from tragedy.
"In February 2004 my daughter, Devon, passed away in a car accident," Rauscher said. "A memorial fund was established for her by friends, and we decided to use the money to fix up the park."
Rauscher said she chose to focus her energies on the park because she and her her nine-year-old daughter had spent many happy hours there.
But what started out as a plan to spruce up a few of the plantings evolved into much more.
With the help and encouragement of friends, including Carolyn Brennan and Beth deSousa, Rauscher tackled a major park renovation that has included filling in a pool that was closed in 2002, building a new spray park on the site, planning a walkway from the pavilion to the spray park, upgrading lighting and ensuring the spray park fence is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Rauscher said the non-profit Memorial Park Project was awarded $80,000 toward the renovations from Hampden Community Preservation Fund last April, received a $5,000 donation from Monson Savings Bank, and has garnered donations from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, the Pearson Foundation and the Rotary club of Hampden-Wilbraham. The rest of the monies have come through fund-raisers, individual donations to the Memorial Park Project account at Monson Savings Bank and the sale of walkway bricks.
"One of the reasons I felt we fell short [on funding the renovations] is that it took much more to fill in the pool and get it to ground level than we anticipated," Rauscher said, adding that just the pool portion of the project cost $30,000.
Bricks on sale through April 1
Though the project is nearly complete, Rauscher said she is making one more push to raise the final funding needed.
For example, the deadline to buy a personalized brick for the park's new walkway has been extended to April 1.
"I'd like to sell another 25 bricks to bring [the count] to 100," Rauscher said. "That will help defray a part of the remaining $10,000, but not all of it."
The bricks, which can include up to three lines of wording, cost $60. For an additional $15, bricks can be personalized with a selection of clip art which includes military insignias, religious symbols, sports motifs and more.
"A lot of people have done them as memorials, and kids have done them for their sports," she said. "I think the clip art is a cool way to make them personalized."
Anyone interested in purchasing a brick can contact Rauscher by telephone at 596-8028, or by e-mail at email@example.com. She will send out the order form.
Donations are also still being accepted to help pay for the remaining renovations, including the cost of grass seed and final plantings. Interested individuals can contact Rauscher for information, or stop by the Monson Savings Bank branch, located at 15 Somers Road in Hampden, and ask to donate to the Memorial Park Project.
And though talking about her daughter's death still moves Rauscher to tears, she said the work on Memorial Park has helped, in a small way, to ease the pain.
"It's been very good for me. It's given me a place to put my time," she said. "I hope when people go to the park they will remember Devon."