Volunteers build playground in honor of young Newtown victim: dedication Saturday

Firefighters, students and volunteers converged on the field at The Academy on Gulf Street Friday to build a playground that will be dedicated to one of the young victims of the Newtown shootings.

The playground was built as part of the Sandy Ground project, which was established last year by fire departments across the tri-state area with the idea of building 26 playgrounds across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Several have been built over the past year — and Milford is one of the communities to receive one. The playground will be dedicated this coming weekend in memory of James Mattioli, a 6-year-old who was lost in the tragedy at Newtown.

Milford firefighters have combined forces with the Milford Recreation Department to conduct a benefit fund-raiser for the project.

A 5K run will take place on Saturday, March 22, with all proceeds directed to the Sandy Ground project.

The March 22 race will begin at 10 a.m. Racers will convene at Fowler Field for the beginning of the race.

The certified 5K race course will start at Fowler Field, go past Gulf Beach and the new James Mattioli Playground at The Academy, and end back at Fowler Field.

There will be an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new playground at noon, immediately following the race, on The Academy property.

Registration fee is $26; participants may register on the day of the event, beginning at 7:30 a.m.

Kids Run/Obstacle Course details

In addition to the race, a Kids Fun Run/Obstacle Course will begin at 9 a.m. on race day. Children may enter a one-quarter-mile run/obstacle course, compliments of Ramos Athletic Conditioning Center. Registration fee is $6; participants may register on the day of the event beginning at 7:30 a.m.

To register online now for either event, visit runsignup.com/Race/CT/Milford/TheSandyGround5kInMemoryOfJamesMattioli.

Online registration deadline is March 18.

For more information about the 5K run, contact the Milford Fire Department at 203-874-6321.

 The playgrounds

It is expected the 26 playgrounds will cost about $3.5 million, total. Most of the funding so far has been collected through donations and fund-raising events in local communities.

According to the Sandy Ground Project website (thesandygroundproject.org), the concept was “inspired by senseless violence in Newtown, Connecticut and in an effort to restore the storm ravaged east coast after Hurricane Sandy. We hope to create 26 living memorials to all children who have been victims of violence while creating safe, fun places for children to be children.”