Baltimore County News
County’s largest, most accessible playground for special needs children
Angel Park officially opened today, welcoming kids of all ages and abilities to enjoy a safe, all-inclusive playground specifically designed to accommodate children with special needs by eliminating physical and social barriers to inclusion.
This afternoon, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz led a passionate crowd of Angel Park volunteers, donors, Perry Hall recreation and community leaders and elected officials in a ceremonial ribbon-cutting. This unique playground and amphitheater, located next to the Perry Hall Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, was conceived and majority-funded by community members.
Kamenetz presented official Baltimore County Hero pins to Kelli and Andy Szczybor, who were inspired to create Angel Park in memory of their son Ryan, who died as a baby. “When you lose a child, you are just looking for something to help them live on and to help your family to heal,” said Angel Park co-founder Kelli Szczybor.
“I am amazed and tremendously impressed with what all of you have accomplished here,” Kamenetz told the Angel Park group. “You saw a need, came up with a very ambitious plan, and you got it done! The result is a remarkable gift to your community - a gift that will improve the quality of life in Perry Hall for generations to come.”
The playground design was developed with input from 4,500 pre-K through fifth graders from the Perry Hall area. The park includes a wheelchair-accessible “shaky bridge,” a Braille panel, therapeutic swings, 30-foot accessible zip lines, as well as quiet spaces for children with autism and other conditions. The storybook theme features a fire truck, pirate ship, castle, music stations, and a treehouse. Local elements include a seafood store, a Terps turtle, a Police station, an ice cream shop and more.
Funding for Angel Park
Angel Park is the result of three years of energetic fundraising, and hands-on work by thousands of volunteers from the Perry Hall Recreation Council and broader community. Funding for the park came from more than 200 donors at varying levels, sponsorships from corporations, local restaurants, and individuals as well as government grants. Baltimore County Government contributed a $250,000 grant from capital funds, as well as providing the land for the park and ongoing maintenance.
Hundreds cheer honorees at awards luncheon
At today’s 26th annual Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities Awards Ceremony, an enthusiastic crowd recognized the achievements of ten individuals, employers, advocates and organizations for their outstanding achievements and contributions.
About 200 people attended the ceremony and luncheon hosted by the Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities. The Commission provides support and advocacy for County residents with disabilities and works to ensure that County programs, buildings and services are open equally to all persons, regardless of their disabilities. In addition, the Commission provides resources and referrals on obtaining services not only from the County but through programs offered by the state and federal government.
“Life is full of challenges, but no matter what those challenges may be, one thing remains true – it’s best not to face them alone,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “That’s why we’re so pleased to recognize the remarkable efforts of people living with disabilities in our communities and the people who help them in their journey.”
This year’s honorees include:
- Kelli Szczybor and Michelle Strekfus of Angel Park, winners of the Accessibility Award;
- Julia Stockburger of Perry Hall Middle School, winner of the Student of the Year Award;
- Pamela Saterlee-Williams of Baltimore County Public Schools, winner of the Teacher of the Year Award;
- Alban CAT Company in Rosedale, winner of the Employer of the Year Award;
- Maggie Hutson of the Timonium Edible Arrangements, winner of the Employee of the Year Award;
- Marty Sweeney, Head of School for the Odyssey School, winner of the Educational Advocate of the Year Award;
- Ed Pfaff, winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award, is an instructional assistant at Parkville High School and football coach at Towson High School who volunteers with the Challenger Softball Program;
- Gary Madigan, Penn-Mar Organization, winner of the Employee Advocate Award;
- Kathy Vecchioni of By their Side, winner of the Family Support Award;
- Paralympics gold medal winner Larry Hughes; the first recipient of the new Community Service – Courage Award.
A few interesting stories…
Kelli Szczybor and Michelle Strekfus are accepting the Accessibility Award on behalf of the four thousand volunteers their group inspired to help raise $1.5 million to build an all-inclusive playground and amphitheater in Perry Hall that is specifically designed to be the largest and most accessible playground in the Baltimore region for children with special needs.
Student of the Year honoree, Julia Stockburger of Perry Hall Middle School, is an outstanding Braille reader who has won national competitions, is an avid piano and trumpet player and computer techie, and she loves attending Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.
Employee of the Year Award recipient, Maggie Hutson, is known by her co-workers at Edible Arrangements in Timonium as an ace at cutting and skewering fruit, not to mention her chocolate strawberry dipping finesse. They credit her enthusiasm and positive attitude as a daily morale boost.
Larry Hughes, a paralyzed Vietnam veteran and 1996 Paralympics gold medal winner in the discus throw, is the first recipient of the new Community Service – Courage Award. He has translated his love of athletics into a devotion for physical fitness training, coaching, and motivational speaking and is the founder of Maryland Wheelchair Athletic Promotions.
Marianne Bishoff and her colleagues at Alban CAT’s Pulaski Repair Shop in Rosedale take employee mentoring to a whole new level, empowering their Arc Baltimore supported employees, treating them like family, and striving to help them grow, learn and succeed.
Annual Commission on Disabilities Luncheon Marks 25th Year
It was a full house at the 25th annual Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities Awards Ceremony yesterday afternoon where Executive Kevin Kamenetz helped to recognize the achievements of Baltimore County citizens with disabilities, their families, employers, advocates and organizations.
More than 300 people attended the ceremony and luncheon hosted by the Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities. The Commission provides support and advocacy for County residents with disabilities and works to assure that County programs, buildings and services are open equally to all persons, regardless of their disabilities. In addition, the Commission provides resources and referrals on obtaining services not only from the County but through programs offered by the state and federal government.
“This year’s extraordinary honorees have made a difference in so many lives, whether by providing employment and education opportunities to people with disabilities, or by serving as an example of people living with disabilities who are making outstanding contributions to our communities every single day,” said Kamenetz.
This year’s honorees include:
- Jerry Easterly, Principal of Battle Monument School, winner of the Education Advocate Award
- BCPS Special Education Specialists Sara Egorin-Hooper and Susie Swindell won the Outstanding Commitment to the Arts Award for their annual Very Special Arts Festival at Oregon Ridge Park
- Ryan Henderson, UMBC student and Freeland resident, won the Student of the Year Award
- Mr. Ryan Guimont of Kenwood High School, winner of the Teacher of the Year Award
- Valari Dorsey and Granny’s Restaurant in Owings Mills, winner of the Employer of the Year Award
- Robert Zerance, employee of Graul’s Market and Freeland resident, winner of the Employee of the Year Award
- Dianna Morgan of the Arc Baltimore, winner of the Disability Support Award
- Ed Slattery of Lutherville, winner of the Family Support Award
- Club 1111, The League for People with Disabilities, winner of the Innovative Community Program Award
- Ronald Day of the League for People with Disabilities and Towson resident, winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award
- Boy Scout Troop 730 of Towson-Parkville, winner of this year’s Special Chairperson’s Award
Revised September 26, 2016