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2016 CommunityCare Grant Awarded to Mason’s Mission Foundation

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Grant will support construction of playground for abled and disabled children 

PENDLETON, NY — A foundation established by a local family hoping to build a playground that can be enjoyed by the abled and disabled alike just took one big step closer to achieving its goal.

UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine has announced that the Mason’s Mission Foundation will be the sole recipient of its second annual 2016 CommunityCare Grant in the amount of $10,000.

“It’s our pleasure to support the Mason’s Mission Foundation,” said Robert J. Smolinski, M.D., a physician at UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. “The playground will make a significant difference for families throughout the area with disabled children or adults. As orthopaedic specialists, we strongly believe in what the Mason’s Mission Foundation is trying to accomplish — giving every child and adult a place to play together, regardless of disability.”

Jason and Jennifer Evchich of Pendleton formed the Mason’s Mission Foundation to raise the $445,000 needed to build a playground that all children could enjoy. Thus far, they have raised about 47% of the total, or $210,000 — including the CommunityCare Grant; a $150,000 grant secured by state Sen. Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda; proceeds from a golf outing; and almost $20,000 raised through GoFundMe.

“When we were told that Mason’s Mission would be the sole recipient of the full $10,000 grant, we honestly didn’t know what to say,” Jason Evchich said. “We were just blown away. It’s wonderful. That they are so fully behind this and so supportive of our mission is just amazing.”

The impetus for the effort strikes close to home — the couple’s sons, Mason, 3, and Matthew, 2, were born with undiagnosed leukodystrophy, a rare and progressive genetic disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. The boys are unable to walk and have difficulty holding their heads up.

“We’ve been moved every day,” Evchich said. “Our boys are our inspiration. When they smile, we just light up. We’re a family of faith, and that’s how this all got started. And now, here we are.”

Like all children, Mason and Matthew love to play — but most playgrounds are designed for abled children. The new park, which will be built in Pendleton’s town park on Campbell Boulevard, will be fully accessible. Designed by Parkitects, Inc. of Lansing, NY, it will encompass 10,000 square feet and include swings, slides, climbing equipment, a merry-go-round, and visual and audio tools for abled and disabled people of all ages.

“We want to create opportunities for young children to get to know one another and teach them that disability isn’t a barrier,” Evchich said. “Play is the perfect avenue for those opportunities. And this is not just a park for children — we want people with adult disabled family members to feel welcome and come here to enjoy themselves. This park is about bringing people of all ages together.”

That’s especially important for the Evchich family. Their eldest child, McKenna, is not handicapped, but Evchich said she loves playing with her brothers.

“We see it with her — if you instill an attitude in young kids, they don’t see someone as being handicapped or disabled,” Evchich said. “They really just want to play together. That’s a big part of what we hope to accomplish with this park.”

The Mason’s Mission Foundation must raise an additional $235,000. To make a gift, visit www.gofundme.com and search for “Mason’s Mission Special Needs Park.” It is the family’s hope that the park will be funded and constructed by next summer — just in time for Mason to turn 4 in May and Matthew to turn 3 in June.

The CommunityCare Grant, now in its second year, gives up to $10,000 to local, non-profit 501(c)3 agencies in areas such as health and wellness, sports and fitness, activities for the mentally disabled, and geriatric health. Recipients are chosen based on economic need, the mission of the organization, and fund utilization goals. For additional information, visit www.ubortho.com and look under the About menu.

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Media Coverage: Pendleton family closer to making special needs access playground a reality