Completing a legacy to a child lost too soon, Akron Children's Hospital Beeghly Campus in Boardman officially opened Alex's Playground on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
The Alex's Playground Project began as an inspiration of two parents who were mourning the loss of their infant son Alex, who was one of twins born prematurely and was a patient of Akron Children's Hospital for his six short days of life.
"Today is a bittersweet day for me," said Alex's mother Allison Vistein. "For my family and myself this is a tribute to our son whose life was so short, but whose legacy will go on forever."
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Enjoying the new playground at Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman is Aiden Vistein, the twin brother of Alex for whom the playground was named.
While his twin Aiden survived, Alex's short life was devastating for the family and they wanted to do something to honor him.
The dream became reality when the Hine Memorial Fund of The Youngstown Foundation gave a $125,000 grant to help build the playground on the Boardman Campus. On Aug. 3 and 4, a large group of volunteers from Home Depot, the Aut Mori Grotto, Junior League of Youngstown, Austintown Rotary, Green Building Pro's as well as hospital employees and friends joined in to put up the large piece of playground equipment. It was surrounded with soft artificial turf and was ready to go Wednesday as dozens of young patients broke in the equipment after the ribbon cutting.
"This playground is not only a wonderful place for our patients and families to play, but it also delivers an important visual message," said Akron Children's Hospital CEO William H. Considine. "That message is that Akron Children's Hospital Mahoning Valley is a place that honors children and families."
Speaking on the fact the playground is designed to accommodate children with disabilities, Hine Memorial Fund spokesperson Crissi Jenkins said, "Alex's Playground will be a place to play and a place for fun for all children regardless of their abilities."
The design can accommodate wheelchairs, leg braces, crutches, and other barriers that usually leave a child sidelined. It also features sound and visual stimulation for children with hearing or vision loss.
After the Wednesday ribbon cutting, Alex's surviving brother Aiden and his father enjoyed one of the playground's many ride-push vehicles. After pushing his son around the huge playground, Mark Vistein said, "We were envisioning it to be this big, but it is wonderful."
Naming opportunities will be available inside the playground through a series of blocks that can be engraved with the name of a child.