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New Playground Built In Memory Of Tinton Falls Girl

TINTON FALLS: Hundreds of residents gathered in the sunshine last Saturday afternoon at Liberty Park for the ribbon cutting of a newly built playground constructed to honor the memory of local resident Hannah Duffy who lost her valiant battle with brain cancer on Sept. 26, 2013 at the age of 14.

Constructed by the Where Angles Play Foundation, (whereangelsplayfoundation.org) with the assistance of many local volunteers, the playground is handicapped accessible for children of all abilities.

From the group's website:

In late 2012, the New Jersey State Firefighters' Mutual Benevolent Association was committed to providing much needed advocacy and ongoing support for firefighters, their families and their communities struggling from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Just two months after Hurricane Sandy hit, America was stunned following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

In the days and weeks that followed, the FMBA - like so many others - struggled to find a way to appropriately honor the children, teachers and the families of this tragedy. The NJFMBA President at that time, Bill Lavin from the Elizabeth Fire Department, and members of the NJFMBA had recently worked on building playgrounds in Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Bill's idea was to build 26 playgrounds in Hurricane Sandy destroyed communities - one to honor the memory of each teacher or student lost that day in Newtown, CT.

The Where Angels Play Foundation was founded and its first tribute initiative "The Sandy Ground Project" was completed in just 18 months. Twenty-six playgrounds were constructed along the coast of three states and built by firefighters, police officers, teachers, school administrators and community volunteers. Each playground reflects the personality of the teacher or child for whom it is named and the project had unanimous approval and blessings of all 26 families.

These very same Newtown families have chosen to "pay it forward" by helping to continue the initiative to build playgrounds in needy communities across the country. Since completing The Sandy Ground Project, the Where Angels Play Foundation has built playgrounds in Mississippi, Massachusetts and New Jersey and continues to spread our mission of honor and healing.

Music at Saturday's ceremony was provided by the Union County Police & Fire Pipes and Drums with the rendition of several hymns including a very moving version of Amazing Grace.

Bill Lavin of the Foundation introduced and thanked many of those had had played major roles in the playground becoming a reality. To Hannah's parents he noted "I hope this is everything you dreamed it would be as you watch children at play for many years to come".

Hanna's mom Sue Levy Funck noted that Hannah was "funny, smart, a gifted athlete and a great big sister to her brother Robbie" who was the foreman on the playground project. She also commented that "Hannah continues to inspire people beyond what she could imagine".

A plane flew overhead for several minutes during the ceremony towing a banner which read "From The Moon And Back Great Job Robbie"

To the music of What A Wonderful World and Somewhere Over The Rainbow the banner of the Where Angels Play Foundation was raised by Hannah's grandparents Mike and Rita Levy.

Other speakers included Tinton Falls Mayor Gerald Turning and several family friends. An original song "Where Angels Play" written by Maria DiGiacomo Adubato and Cheryl DaVeiga was performed by Maria.

After a plaque was uncovered and ribbon cut, dozens of children headed onto to playground for the first time with Hannah smiling from above knowing that she would never be forgotten.

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