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The program will provide the city of St. Helens in Columbia County with a new all-abilities playground.

SCREENSHOT - This banner from the Portland Trail Blazers website announces St. Helens as the winner of the 2020 Moda Assist Program and the recipient of a new all-abilities program.Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard may be best known for his long jumpshots and gravity-defying drives to the basket, but on Friday, April 3, he came through with a very big assist to the city of St. Helens.

On Friday, the Trail Blazers and Moda Health announced that St. Helens was the winner of the 2020 Moda Assist Program, a victory that will give the city of St. Helens more than $25,000 to plan and build a new all-abilities playground at McCormick Park.

"We are very honored to win this competition and would like to thank Moda Health and the Trail Blazers for this opportunity to provide such a wonderful resource to the children in our community," said Rick Scholl, Mayor of St. Helens.

St. Helens racked up 48,094 votes in less than a month to win the three-city competition over Sandy and Astoria. The Moda Assist Program, now in its seventh year, aims to promote active, healthy lifestyles for Oregon children, emphasizing the key role that parks and open spaces play in building healthy communities.

"We are thankful for our partnership with Moda Health for supporting healthy, active living through the Moda Assist Program," said Chris McGowan, President and CEO of the Trail Blazers. "We look forward to continuing the Moda Assist Program going forward and building more all-abilities playgrounds in the greater Oregon community."

"In these trying times, we're all being reminded just how important it is for youngsters — for all youngsters — to embrace an active life," said Dr. William Johnson, President of Moda Health. "We all know playgrounds can be key contributors to children's physical and emotional health. That's why we are so delighted to continue to partner with Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers on this program. It touches lives throughout our state."

Lillard serves as the ambassador for the Moda Assist Program, which donates $20 to the Trail Blazers Foundation for every assist made by the team during the season; this year, the Blazers handed out 1,333 assists over the course of the season, which should lead to a minimum contribution of $26,660, though that total could change if the NBA resumes its 2020 season.

Those funds go to help build all-abilities playgrounds in one community each year in Oregon. Each year, three cities are selected and fans can then go online and vote for their favorite. Voting this year began March 5 and ended April 2 for Astoria, St. Helens and Sandy.

"We would also like to thank our amazing community members who took time each day to vote," Scholl said. "We recognize the importance of parks in our community and have worked hard over the last several years to prioritize park and trail improvement projects in St. Helens."

Scholl said the money from the Moda Assist Program will go to upgrade the facilities at McCormick Park.

"With this funding, we are excited to replace the old playground equipment at (McCormick Park) with a much-needed upgrade that will benefit children of all-abilities," he said. "Once again, thank you to Moda Health and the Trail Blazers."

Karis J.A. Stoudamire-Phillips, Corporate Social Responsibility Director for Moda Health, said that many cities choose to design their own playgrounds, but added that Moda Health would also offer consukting help from Harper's Playground, a Portland company dedicated to building better, all-inclusive playgrounds around the world.

The Moda Assist program has previously provided funding for all-abilities playgrounds in Baker City, Redmond, La Grande, Portland, Medford and Hermiston. Last year's winner, Baker City, is still in the planning stages for its new park.

The Blazers added that, despite the postponement of the 2019-20 NBA season, the financial contribution to St. Helens will not be impacted and will remain consistent with previous seasons.

Once the dollar figure for the award is finalized, the Blazers and Moda Health will make a check presentation to the city of St. Helens. After that, the new park is expected to be planned and built in the following 12-18 months.


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