At the exact moment daredevil Felix Baumgarter took his historic step off in his record-setting skydive, nearly 1,000 residents, family and friend at Belmont's Winn Brook Elementary School took a collective step off to repeat history.
Led at the start by a bagpiper wailing "Scotland, the Brave" and welcomed home by brassy tunes from the Belmont High School Marching Band, the assembly – toddlers in strollers, youngsters wearing rain boots, parents pushing strollers and older residents walking dogs – transversed two miles through town participating in the inaugural Walk for Belmont to Benefit Joey’s Park.
For Ellen Schreiber, the force behind the walk, the day that started out under a threatening sky finished under a bright, warm sun was the perfect ending to a great day.
"We hit a home run," said the co-chairwoman of Friends of Joey's Park as the event raised more than $30,000. And that total should increase as the donation site will stay up until Oct. 31 at http://walk.joeyspark.org/
Walkers – that included the entire Board of Selectmen, candidates and politicians along with business leaders and residents from across town – filled the sidewalks around the Winn Brook neighborhood as each step brought the effort to replace the playground closed in November of last year due to its deteriorating condition.
"This is the rebuilding of Joey's Park and of Joey's legacy," said Joe O'Donnell, who walked the two-miles. "[The walk] is about a community that continues to remember Joey."
The walk was "our coming out party" to inform people the non-profit has begun fund raising, said Schreiber
The Friends of Joey's Park is focused to replace the original wooden structure built nearly a quarter century ago – constructed in memory of 12-year-old Joey O’Donnell – with modern composite and metal playground equipment in September, 2013 with a massive "community" build.
"I'd like to see 1,000 volunteers all through town here next year to build this from scratch," said Schreiber.
While participates ate pizza, had their faces painted and listened to the High School marching band, Schreiber was looking ahead at a series of challenges facing the building of a new park
The next step will be refining the blueprint of the new playground created last month with the assistance of Winn Brook school children by designer John Dean.
The public can view the preliminary design and add their comments by going to www.joeyspark.org .
Important to completing the park will be an additional round of fund raising as it is a "big, big park," said Schreiber, who founded Belmont Partners in Play.
Current projections call for the park costing between $250,000 to $500,000 depending on what is being proposed in the park's design and the level of volunteering.
In addition to donations from individuals and families, the Friends will be seeking funds from the town's $2 million Community Preservation Act account as well as from major institutions, corporations and granters in town and in the area.
"We're trying to be good stewards to the money people are donating. We will not leave any stone unturned," said Schreiber.