Construction of a new spray park in Toms River was recently announced, and kids of all ages and abilities have something to celebrate. The park is slated to be all-inclusive, meaning accessible for children with disabilities. “We are focused on all abilities being able to interact with each other at this splash pad,” says Erica Cirillo, co-president of Fountains of Hope, the organization fueling the project.
“So many times children like mine can’t do what other children [can do] easily," adds Cirillo, who has an 8-year-old daughter who uses a wheelchair and is nonverbal. "We wanted to change that, so children of all abilities could come together and have a place where they can cool off and also have fun.”
Though there was previous talk of adding a splash pad in town, plans fell through due to funding.
“That’s when we all got together and decided to start a nonprofit,” Cirillo says.
The spray park will be accessible to children with both physical and developmental disabilities.
Fountains of Hope is privately raising the money for the spray park, with a variety of fundraisers already making an impact. The township, which looks forward to adding its first spray park, has been supportive of the project.
When searching for a location for the new park, the organizers chose a spot that was familiar to them—Skyview Park on Vaughn Avenue, just north of Bay Avenue.
“We used to play at the park, and we have some great memories,” Cirillo says. “We want our children to have the same chance to make wonderful memories there.”
Though Skyview already offers plenty of recreation, they felt it needed something more.
“The park is already beautiful; it just needs some TLC,” Cirillo says. “We will have swings, and a beautiful area to walk in. We don’t want to change the wheel but make it better. Have everyone understand not every person is the same. We are all unique.”
The spray park’s design includes fountains of varying heights with interactive sprays, seats, and platforms that can accommodate wheelchairs. It will be built in an undeveloped part of the park and will not replace any existing facilities. Construction is scheduled to begin next spring.
“Our biggest hope [for the spray park] is inclusion," Cirillo says. "We hope that the community sees our passion. This isn’t just our project, it’s everyone’s.”
Renderings courtesy of Fountains of Hope