Stilwell first came to work at Commonwealth Wholesale as
a sophomore in high school. Later, when she was a student
at Christopher Newport University majoring in social work
in 2004, Katie wanted to get involved in a community project.
In discussing it with me, I suggested that she visit the
all-inclusive playground in Chesterfield County, created
by Jane Warrick's organization Katie and Friends.
It was created not only for Jane's daughter, but all children
with limited abilities. Katie and I discussed this very
special project and felt that it was something we would
both enjoy working together on. It was Katie who organized
the first fundraisers - from bake sales, to concerts by
Susan Greenbaum and raffles. Operation Hope began with a
single college student who was inspired and motivated to
take on this project.
Every donated dollar has gone directly to costs of playground
equipment and construction. No donations have gone to any
type of promotional materials, events or administrative
by Dana Nelson
Hope was established in 2004 by Dana Nelson and Katie Stilwell,
recognizing the need of many children in our area to have
a play area that they could share with their friends and
interact with other children. Because of varied disabilities
or special needs, they were truly missing out.
But that will change if our hopes of raising funds to build
two new playgrounds in Hanover County are realized. With
the help of Resources for Independent Living Inc, serving
as the fiscal agent for Operation Hope, and the generosity
of many, we are getting closer to this reality. But we have
far to go.
The cost of one handicap accessible playground can run
over $100,000. And we hope to build two! Our plans are to
build one playground in Mechanicsville, at Pole Green Park;
and one in Ashland, at Poor Farm Park!
We know these playgrounds can be very successful, as proven
with "Katie & Friends" in Chesterfield County.
Our county needs the same wonderful resource.
Please consider helping us make this dream a reality. You
will not only be helping thousands of special needs children,
but helping the entire community build a better understanding
and acceptance of all.
- To provide playgrounds that will maximize the development
of children, regardless of their age or ability.
- To comply with safety guidelines and provide safe access
to all areas of the playground.
- To educate the community on the need to promote understanding
and acceptance of others.
- To foster the development of social skills in children
that will last a lifetime.
- To provide a barrier-free environment where children,
parents, grandparents, and siblings can relax and interact.
- To provide playgrounds where physical therapists, occupational
therapists, speech and language therapists can utilize
a natural environment for sessions.
- To promote cognitive growth through imagination and
play; encourage hands-on mental and physical educational