ASTON — The excitement was palpable on Monday morning as children, some in wheelchairs and using crutches, waited patiently for township officials and representatives from Energy Transfer to cut the ceremonial ribbon, marking the official opening of “Smiles in the Playground,” a special-needs accessible playground located on the grounds of the township community center.

The playground is the long-awaited dream of resident Kit Spayd and her mother, Aston 2nd Ward Commissioner Carol Graham.

“Today has been 12 years in the making and it just all seems surreal,” Spayd said. “Look at the faces of these children; they are so happy. This is what it's all about. Now, children with special needs have a safe place to play.”

Energy Transfer donated $305,000 for the all-inclusive playground that features swings, slides, a large climbing area, see-saw, merry-go-round, and other activities that allow children of all skill sets to play freely.

“It is great to be here for the long-awaited opening of this playground,” said Hank Alexander, Energy Transfer vice president of business development. “We are honored to be part of this dream and bringing an idea to reality. We know this playground will bring smiles and inspire children ... Great things happen when we all remain committed to a goal. Energy Transfer is committed to giving back to the community. As they play here, we hope the children will develop friendships, make memories, and have many happy moments.”

Spayd and her husband Nick are the parents of two daughters, one of whom has special needs. Spayd said when her daughter was younger she hoped for a special swing to be placed in a township playground for Olivia and other children in need.

“Never in my wildest dreams could I ever have imagined this,” she said. “It's just beautiful.”

Ashlyn Marabella, multiple disabilities support teacher at Sun Valley High School, was on-hand for the ribbon cutting with her students, who seemed more than anxious to christen the new playground.

“This is really incredible,” Marabella said. “It is an amazing experience for all these students to be included by the community. I know they appreciate it very much.”

And Aston Commissioners President Jim Stigale, in his remarks, summed up the day nicely.

“The children in our community will be able to play with no limitations to their imagination. The smiles that will be seen at this playground will be priceless.”

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