Column: Campaign launched for Chastain Park playground

By Maria Saporta

Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Friday, February 8, 2013

The Chastain Park Conservancy wants to create an extraordinary space for play.

The conservancy is undergoing a$2.5 million capital campaign to transform its current half-acre, nondescript playground into a 6-acre hillside with green space and a 3-acre active play area for all ages.

“It’s a pretty sad little playground right now,” said Jay Smith, vice chairman of the Conservancy who is leading the fundraising effort. “And it is the only playground in a city park within a five-mile radius. It needs to be replaced.”

The Chastain Park Conservancy has a 20-year master plan that includes transforming the playground into a destination.

“We intend to build a water feature, a tree-house, a zip-line, a slide and climbing walls,” said Smith, who is also a retired executive from Cox Enterprises. “It will have something to keep kids engaged and is appropriate for their ages. This will be a place not just for kids, but for their parents.”

The Conservancy already has raised $500,000 for the project, and received a $300,000 commitment from the city of Atlanta for new restrooms. It also will have an outdoor community center.

“We need to have $1 million before we can start construction, and we would like to start this summer,” Smith said.

Rosa McHugh, interim executive director of the Conservancy, who has been serving as its development director, said the goal is to open the playground in late fall. Portions will be enhanced as new funding is raised.

“It’s based on a philosophy of natural play,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Conservancy has another major initiative on the horizon.

It is exploring how it can widen the multipurpose PATH on Wieuca Road on the edge of the golf course. Currently a narrow sidewalk barely accommodates pedestrians, much less cyclists and runners.

“We have raised about $80,000 to do the surveying work to make that portion of the PATH wider and safer,” Smith said. “We expect that will be a $2 million to $3 million project, and we hope to get some public funding for it.”

Woodward campaign

The Woodward Academy has completed its most expansive capital campaign in its 113-year history — raising $62.5 million.

Campaign Woodward began in September 2007 with an original goal of raising $47 million for three components — three new major buildings on campus, increasing the endowment and continuing annual gifts.

“We are very grateful for the generous support of our Woodward family,” said Stuart Gulley, president of the Woodward Academy, which is based in College Park. “Our success is the result of years of work by a dedicated and determined fundraising staff, and the truly unique loyalty and love that members of our community have for this great school. I extend my gratitude to all of our donors.”

Children of Fallen Patriots

The Children of Fallen Patriots is holding its fundraising event on Saturday, Feb. 9,at the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead.

The foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides college scholarships and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty.

The Children of Fallen Patriots estimates that more than 15,000 children have lost a parent in combat or training accidents over the last 25 years. The foundation was started in 2002, and since then it has granted more than $4.3 million scholarships to more than 296 children. It also has enrolled more than 1,700 pre-college-aged children who have required the foundation’s services.

The event’s co-chairs are Barbara Roos and Sheree Boyd; and the founders of the foundation are David and Cynthia Kim.

Hyatt’s Heritage Celebration

The relationship between the Hyatt Regency Atlanta and the African-American community is undeniable. The Hyatt’s Heritage Celebration on Feb. 4 has just continued the bond.

Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young remembered how 45 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. attended his last Southern Christian Leadership Conference board meeting in the hotel. And then he invited living members of the “ground crew” of the Civil Rights Movement — foot soldiers whom Young called “unsung heroes” — who attended the celebration at the Hyatt.

The celebration began in 2003 as a way for the Hyatt to thank its African-American customers. “They think they are saying ‘thank you’ to us,” Young said. “We think of this as a wonderful place we can call home.”

The special honoree of the night was Billye Aaron, an Atlanta talk show host in the 1960s, who spoke of the first hotel experience.

It was Jan. 27, 1965 — the night that Martin Luther King Jr. was being honored in Atlanta for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

“They got the Dinkler Plaza to open up its doors for this big dinner in 1965,” Aaron said. “That was the first time I had ever set foot in a hotel, and it was a most improbable time because I was sitting on the dais with many others and Martin Luther King. It was one of the highlights of my life and one that I will always remember.”

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