A Christmas gift for the children of Port


Inspired by fundraiser, local philanthropist donates $25,000 for Possibility Playground, allowing organizers to expand plan to upgrade accessible play area

    Shirli Flack has a Christmas gift for the children of Port Washington and the surrounding area — a merry-go-round accessible to youngsters of all ages that will be added to Possibility Playground.
    When she first heard the Possibility Playground committee was working to finance a merry-go-round, Flack said, “I thought that would be a wonderful thing to do.
    “I love that playground. It gets used constantly. Last Saturday I drove by and in the cold, there were parents with their children there, all bundled up.
    “It’s wonderful because all children, those with disabilities and those without, can play there. The children learn from each other, and they learn about life.”
    This is not Flack’s first gift to the playground. She made the first donation to the playground, $50,000, when fundraising for it began, and contributed another $30,000 to purchase the water feature.
    “She’s been our angel,” said Sue Mayer, who with Mardy McGarry spearheaded the effort to create the playground in Port Washington’s Upper Lake Park.
    “She wows us every time. She provided the first donation. As we were building it, if there was money needed for food or anything, she was right there.”
  KID  McGarry said she was moved to tears when Flack told her she wanted to buy the merry-go-round for the playground.
    “I was so excited when she offered this,” McGarry said.
    The merry-go-round is special, Mayer said.
    “It’s an experience a lot of kids wouldn’t be able to have otherwise,” she said. “It can be enjoyed by all children — whoever’s in a wheelchair and their friends.”
    The northeast corner of the playground will be extended about 425 square feet to accommodate the merry-go-round — something approved by the city’s Parks and Recreation Board recently.
    The donation doesn’t mean the playground committee won’t be proceeding with its Merry Go Fish fundraising campaign, McGarry added.
    So far, the response to the fundraiser has been “fantastic,” she said. But instead of spending the money raised on the merry-go-round, it will go toward other projects.
    “There are still some things we want to tweak up there,” Mayer said.
    Those projects include adding a formal entryway to the playground at the crosswalk leading to it.
    “We want to make a really fun, cool, whimsical entrance,” McGarry said. “Not just to welcome people but to signal to traffic that there’s a playground there.”
    The committee also wants to remove the sandboxes, she said, because the sand that spills out is ruining the playground surface.
    In their place, the committee plans to add some new learning panels, McGarry said.
    The Merry Go Fish fundraiser kicked off last month as committee members sought sponsors to pay $150 for large, stylized wooden fish that an artist will decorate.
    The fish will be displayed downtown throughout next summer, and in September the fish will be exhibited at the Port Exploreum and a silent auction will begin for the fish. The auction will culminate at the Kiwanis Club’s gala in October.
    There will be about 25 fish available, and committee member John Sigwart said 20 have already been spoken for.
    “The response has been terrific,” he said. “It’s more than exciting. People really want to be involved with this.”
    The reason is simple, organizers said. In the end, it all comes down to the children.
    And that is what inspired Flack to make her donation — when the project first began almost 10 years ago, and today.
    “It’s for the kids,” Flack said. “Everything I do now is about the kids. And this is something nice for the kids.”



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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