The addition of a wheelchair swing at Rogers Park in Leesburg took a step closer to becoming a reality Friday when it was delivered to a local businessman who raised the money to purchase the item.
FedEx representative Tyler Tressler, from Ocala, pulled into the parking lot of 441 Thrift Store, owned by Mark Stapleton, shortly before 2 p.m. Friday with the specialty swing. It was then loaded onto a flatbed trailer by Tressler, Stapleton and Leesburg Recreation Crew Leader Stephen Strickland for the short ride to a city facility, where it will be kept until a concrete pad is poured and it’s installed in the popular park near Venetian Gardens.
Stapleton, who worked tirelessly to raise the $3,000 needed to purchase the swing, said he’s looking forward to the day it is operational.
“It’s going to be tremendous,” Stapleton said. “There is a large segment of handicapped children in wheelchairs that are unseen. There’s nothing for them to do, so you don’t see them.
“Now, they’re to be able to go to Rogers Park at Venetian Gardens to a birthday party under the pavilions. The other kids run off to get on the swings, they can join in and play, too.”
Stapleton said he’d like to thank the community for the generous donations toward the swing. That fundraising effort included $500 checks from Bill Bryan Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram and the Lake County Eagles Club, as well as checks sent to his store and cash donations made by his customers.
Saleena Chanan-Faulkner, internet sales manager for Bill Bryan Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, said the dealership is excited to play a role in bringing the unique swing to Rogers Park, which is located at 610 S 9th Street.
“It’s local to us so we know for a fact people are going to appreciate it when they see it,” she said. “We see it as a plus and a gain with customers and just a gain with knowing that we did something good at the end of the day.”
After receiving the large donation from the Fruitland Park-based auto dealership last month, Stapleton said he was thrilled to see the fundraising effort moving forward so quickly.
“It is tremendous to have another business step up and want to care about the kids,” said Stapleton, who also was in the news in December when he and his wife, Debbie, scrambled to gather Christmas gifts and furniture for a Leesburg family that lost their home to a fire.
Stapleton said the first fundraising raised about $700 more than needed to purchase the wheelchair swing, so he’s set his sights on adding a second one in the city.
“I talked to the company that makes these and they said the swings can be attached,” he said.
Stapleton said he’s spoken with officials from the City of Leesburg and they’ve agreed to pour the concrete pad, install the swing, maintain it and hold a special ribbon-cutting event. And he added that he’s gotten a commitment from the Leesburg Police Department to keep an eye on the device once it’s in place at the park.
Those wishing to donate toward the second wheelchair swing can stop by Stapleton’s store at 1541 U.S. 441 in Leesburg. It is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and closed on Sunday. Residents also can mail checks to the store with the words “wheelchair swing” in the memo line.