Trail Blazers play big role in St. Helens' new playground
The new all-abilities playground at McCormick Park in St. Helens is proof positive that despite their name, the Portland Trail Blazers are not just Portland's team.
The NBA team was instrumental in helping make possible the installation of new playground equipment in St. Helens. Teaming up with arena sponsor Moda Health, the Blazers provided $37,000 for the playground through what's known as the Moda Assist Program.
Karis Stoudamire-Phillips, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion and community initiatives for Moda Health, explained that under the Moda Assist program, Moda gives $20 and the Blazers give $20 for every single on-court assist throughout the entire Blazer season.
"We want them to rack up as many assists as we can because, then, the more money we have to give to a city to build that playground," Stoudamire-Phillips said, noting the assists were recorded during the 2019-20 season.
The Moda Assist Program puts cash toward playground equipment in cities throughout Oregon — not just in Portland. The latest recipient is Astoria's Violet LaPlante Park.
"Some cities use it for a park that's already in existence, and some do it in a brand-new park," Stoudamire-Phillips said.
This summer, the new playground was put in at McCormick Park just in time for Citizens Day. Both the playground installation and Citizens Day were scrapped last summer due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with the much-anticipated play equipment finally being installed just over a month ago.
A grand opening was held Saturday, Aug. 7, coinciding with the citywide community celebration.
"I love that they were able to put this together with the Citizens Day and just really make it a big celebration," said Stoudamire-Phillips. "It's awesome. We've been waiting for this to happen since we couldn't do it last summer. It's a very special day."
A Trail Blazers spokesperson, Andrew Knister, also expressed support for the new playground.
Knister, who works in the corporate partnerships department with the Blazers, explained: "It matches up well with our joint initiative of getting out into greater Oregon, specifically with the Trail Blazers, making sure people understand we're not just Portland's team, we're Oregon's team."
The new playground equipment is meant to accommodate all abilities.
Shanna Duggan, St. Helens' parks and recreation manager, said, "What it does is it creates a space where everyone can play together, for all abilities."
The playground is meant to be enjoyed by all children, including those with developmental or intellectual disabilities.
Knister added, "We're rewarding them with a playground where kids of all abilities can come together and play. It's something that's definitely very important to us and exciting. Doing it with a great partner like Moda is great."
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