By Molly McCarthy, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury ?In his much too short life, Andrew Paul “Drew” Stevens was a busy and active child who loved to be around people and play with his classmates at the Parker Road Preschool. The boy who would introduce himself as “Drew Paul Stevens with a V” also loved fire trucks and visiting the Shrewsbury Fire Department. Sadly, Drew passed away from an illness on April 27, 2012. He was only four years old.
On Sept. 7, Parker Road staff and parents, town officials and members of the community gathered at the school to start the installation of a project dedicated in the little boy's memory, ?Drew's Dream Playground.? Representatives from the Shrewsbury Home Depot and Marshfield-based company Childscapes also assisted in the event which was billed as “Build Day.”
Drew's mother, Susan, shared a story of a time when two boys were arguing over who would sit next to Drew, who was three at the time.
“Drew looked at the two boys and said, “it's ok, I will sit in between the two of you,” and he took a chair and put it in the middle so the boys would stop fighting. It's just amazing how at his age he was so adept at understanding the dynamics of how to solve a problem with kids like that. His social skills in general were very unique for a child of that age,” Stevens said.
It was that spirit, as well as his love of play, that inspired his teacher Jennifer Vangel to create a committee to raise funds to build a playground in his memory at the school.
“He just had this spirit and the smile that he would give us just warmed you right down to your toes,” said Vangel.
Parker Road Preschool is an integrated preschool dedicated to serving children with and without disabilities. So what first started as an idea to install a fire truck play apparatus grew into a decision to make an entire playground accessible to children of all abilities.
Vangel noted that because it can be confusing navigating the laws required in building a playground, the committee went to the town for help. Angela Snell, the director of Parks, Recreation, and Cemetery, was so moved by the group's mission that she too joined the committee.
“We followed with her direction and we met with several playground contractors and we came up with a plan and the plan changed a couple of million times,” said Vangel.
The playground will include an improved swing set with an American with Disabilities Act approved swing, a large fire-truck themed play structure, and rubber pathways to make the playground equipment easily accessible to all. The fact that the playground will be accessible to all children was important to Susan Stevens.
“Drew loved to swing. Whether it was at school or in the backyard, I think there was a freedom associated with it. He felt free. I don's think he felt sick. There was just something about swinging that was almost therapeutic for him and he loved it so much, “said Stevens.
The grand opening of Drew's Dream Playground will be held at a date still to be announced in October. For more information contact Gwen Molina at?[email protected]; visit http://drewslifelegacy.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/drewsdreampage.