This Miracle Is for You: MOM & POP


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Are miracles real? Doubters, say “hello” to Miracle on the Mountain Play Outside Park (MOM & POP) coming soon to the Highway 56-Highway 108 junction in Coalmont. The park will feature a splash pad and play areas reflecting the regions of Grundy County, for example a train for Coalmont and a barn and tractor for farming-centric Pelham. What is so miraculous about that? Plenty. “Everyone can play. No one is left out,” insisted Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady. Every facility and every piece of equipment will welcome children with disabilities to play alongside those without. The miracle has been over 10 years in the making.

The Miracle on the Mountain Park story began when Audrey and Keith Nunley contacted Jessica and Heath Winton. Both couples had sons with cerebral palsy. Audrey had a dream she wanted to turn into a reality: a park where children with disabilities to play alongside those without. The couples reached out to other parents with disabled children and formed MOM & POP. “We fed off Audrey’s dream,” Heath said. MOM & POP hosted bake sales and car washes to raise money, visited all-inclusive parks, brainstormed, and came up with the idea of a theme-park with multiple play areas representing the regions of the county. Grundy County High School donated land, the county commission made a contribution, MOM & POP met with a designer. But Heath conceded, the “hurdle of grants, paperwork and fees,” proved overwhelming. Then Audrey died of cancer.

Mayor Brady was aware of the project. He was also aware from his time serving as mayor of the challenges. “It would take a lot of hard work, dedication, and public support, because once you commit to something like this, there may be taxpayer money involved.” Then one day driving by North Elementary School, Brady saw a disabled child watching from the sidelines while other children ran and played. “It pricked my heart and mind,” Brady said. “So we started.” When Blue Cross Blue Shield denied the grant the county applied for, Brady went to visit Governor Bill Lee, a visit that earned the county a one-million dollar Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Grant. A $2.4 million dollar Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant followed, and MOM & POP contributed the money they raised to the county’s effort.

The county is pursuing other grant funding streams as well. Brady estimates the total cost at $4-5 million, leaving the project about $1 million short. Those who want to help can make contributions at any Citizens Tri-County Bank, earmarking their donation for MOM & POP. “I need money,” Brady acknowledged. The grant funds available will be released in April. “We’re going to pretend like we have all the money. We’re going to move forward.”

MOM & POP adopted the name Miracle on the Mountain Play Outside Park from Miracle Field park in Murfreesboro. The park features a baseball field with a padded surface designed to accommodate Miracle League teams composed of adults and children with disabilities. Play equipment on a flat surface or with a ramp welcomes children in wheelchairs. Heath recalls afternoons at a local park climbing a slide carrying his son and being exhausted after 10 or 15 minutes. “Not all kids want to go to school and learn math,” Heath said. “But all kids want to play.”

Early on, Brady considered omitting the splash pad and restrooms to cut costs, then put both back into the plan. He stressed the entire park would be “ADA functional.” “ADA functional is different from ADA compliant,” Brady explained. “An ADA compliant restroom would have one ADA equipped stall. In an ADA functional restroom, all stalls are ADA equipped.”

The entire park will welcome children with disabilities. The splash pad at MOM & POP will be ground level, rather than elevated, and feature water wheelchairs. The county purchased 25 acres for the park and design will take into account possible expansion, a ballfield, perhaps, an indoor basketball court, a rec center. “The next time we go back to the state for grants, the ballfield will be easy-peasy,” Brady said. “Folks will know we’re credible and grant worthy.”

Brady hopes to break ground by mid to late summer. The theme-based park will include an information kiosk celebrating the legacy and history of Grundy County. “I look for the park to be covered up with people,” Brady said. “If there’s something you want, there’s got to be a way.”

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