Caring for the Families of the Fallen

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Miracle Recreation playground on Dover Air Force Base helps to heal children affected by the loss of a loved soldier.

Dover Air Force Base in Delaware serves as the point of return for all military service personnel who have given their lives in the service of our country. The site is where many families of the fallen begin their healing process. To help ease the way for these families, a team of volunteers from across the United States recently installed a new commemorative playground donated by Miracle Recreation Equipment Company. Created to give children comfort when coping with the loss of a loved family member, the new playground offers a moment of solace in the midst of mourning.

“This playground marks one the most important contributions our company has ever made,” said Dan Guthrie, EVP PlayPower and President PlayPower North America. “The area for families is a dignified, sacred and solemn space that quietly honors the men and women who have served so bravely.”

“It’s an honor to be part of this project,” he says. “As the son of an Air Force Captain I was fortunate to have my father’s influence for 25 years after his safe return. It is our hope this playground provides children with a place of healing during their visit to the Fisher House.”

Founded in 2009, Friends of the Fallen is a nonprofit community based organization that supports the families of the fallen who travel to Dover Air force base to witness the dignified transfer of their loved ones. Fisher House, an 8,462 square foot facility, offers nine suites for visiting families and supports the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover. Friends of the Fallen volunteers work on the campus to provide hospitality to the families.

Kim Landis, Friends of the Fallen president, sees many children come to Dover who are too young to understand what is happening. She saw a great need for a diversion for children staying at Fisher House and felt it was important to keep the kids engaged in normalcy during their short stay.

“The original founders of the Friends of the Fallen had hoped to provide a playground for the children visiting the Fisher House. Now that all of those original members have moved on, we felt it was important to continue their legacy and do what we could to make sure the children had a playground at this facility,” says Landis.

"We can already see how helpful it is to some of the parents and grandparents to be able to see the children play," she says. "You have to consider how many of these kids travel by plane combined with a two-hour car ride from the airport. They need the outdoor space to run and play."

Charlie Walker with Liberty Parks and Playgrounds, a Miracle Representative serving the Delaware area, had previously provided playground equipment at Dover Air Force base and was recommended to Ms. Landis for their excellent service and attention to detail.

Fisher House and Friends of the Fallen teamed with Miracle Recreation to design a playground that fit their specific needs. The group selected a playground from the Tot’s Choice® line for its features that accommodate the wide range of ages among young visitors. The playground is designed for children ages 2-12. The playground is located in the back of the facility surrounded by a patio and garden.

Walker was instrumental in coordinating area companies to help with the construction process. As he recruited volunteers, the replies were unanimously positive. “Everyone I spoke with was eager to help,” says Walker. “It’s one of those causes that’s hard to say no to.”

Support came readily from around the Delaware region as area businesses donated time and materials; along with Liberty Parks & Playgrounds, Inc., Heritage Concrete, Byler Builders, LLC, Safety Turf Inc., Atlantic Concrete Co., and Pioneer Materials collaborated on the construction.

On June 18, representatives from Miracle Recreation, military personnel, and volunteer contractors attended the dedication ceremony. Among them were: Dan Guthrie, Division President North America, PlayPower; Mike Sutton, V.P of Sales North America, PlayPower; Charlie Walker, Liberty Parks & Playgrounds Miracle Sales Representative and David York, Regional Manager, Miracle Recreation. A special plaque with the inscription, “Dedicated to the children of our fallen” pays tribute to the young lives affected by loss.

“I have been to many grand openings for various playgrounds, but I can’t remember going to a ceremony where the people were so appreciative,” says Walker. “It was really special.”

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About Miracle Recreation: Founded in 1927, Miracle Recreation Equipment Company has grown to become one of the leading commercial playground equipment sources in the nation. The company provides customized solutions for parks, schools, churches, communities and other large-scale projects designed for many children. Emphasizing safety, affordability, and child-friendly design, Miracle maintains a spirit of constant innovation. Miracle is a subsidiary of PlayPower, Inc. (more information available at: which owns several companies focused on commercial recreation and leisure. They include Miracle Recreation Equipment Company, EZ Dock, and Soft Play,

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Janet Ryan

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