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first_imgJohn Murphy, president of FMBA Local 27. helped bring the Sandy Ground Project to Ocean City.A small army of volunteers gathered at 29th Street and West Avenue on Thursday to build a new playground.By the end of the day, a new facility honoring 6-year-old Benjamin Wheeler was essentially complete.The work was part of the Sandy Ground Project, an effort to rebuild playgrounds that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 and to pay tribute to the 26 teachers and children killed in December 2012 in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.Ocean City Firefighters FMBA Local 27 and the Ocean City gift shops Old Salt and Sting Ray helped to bring the project to Ocean City. Bill Lavin and the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association started Sandy Ground and partnered with businesses, volunteer and non-profit organizations to help fund and construct a playground in memory of each Sandy Hook victim.Bill Lavin, founder of the Sandy Ground Project gives his foreman, Nate Wheeler, a work belt.Ocean City’s is the 22nd of 26 planned playgrounds and is named for Wheeler, a first-grader killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.The Wheeler family was in town for the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday morning.“What you’re doing is part of what helps us get up in the morning,” Benjamin’s father, David Wheeler, said in the ceremony.He described a typical 6-year-old boy who was constantly moving, running, shouting and who “never knew what the world could be.”But Wheeler said his family takes great comfort in knowing that young Benjamin never saw the dark side of the world, and the family is proud that his name will be part of “a place that is safe and sacred and secure.”Wheeler’s other son, Nate, served as honorary foreman of the job. His wife, Francine, was also part of the ceremony.Lavin thanked the local Feriozzi Concrete Company, Action Supply, A.E. Stone Inc. and Bricklayers and Stone Masons Local No. 2 for contributions that helped build a concrete slab for the new playground facility.By the time of the 10 a.m. “groundbreaking” ceremony, the “Angel’s Army” — named for the projects Where Angels Play Foundation — had installed the base structure of most equipment. Volunteers from the Ocean City community helped complete the construction project in a single day. Another layer of a soft surface over the concrete slab likely will be installed on Saturday.A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, May 18, and the public is invited.The entire cost of the project (including an estimated $70,000 to $75,000 of material) is a paid for by the Sandy Ground Foundation.A fundraiser for other Sandy Ground Project playgrounds is planned for 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday, June 22, at DiOrio’s Cafe in Somers Point. The event includes a buffet and beverages. Call 609-525-9182 for more information.last_img read more

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