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More than a Swing. A Chance at Joy

September 23, 2018

DRACUT -- Several months ago, Sharon Pimentel stumbled upon a video on Facebook of a disabled man who appeared to be in his early 20s. He was enjoying a swing ride, and his bright smile stuck with her.

Pimentel’s mind wandered to her late brother-in-law, Victor, who she said became disabled at the age of 2 after he fell and hit his head. Victor, who died in 2004 at the age of 62, never had the chance to go on a swing during his lifetime.

“I was just thinking that handicapped kids don’t have access to a swing there,” Pimentel, 59, said of parks throughout Dracut.

The idea then struck Pimentel to bring a swing for children with physical disabilities to Dracut’s Veterans Memorial Park on Broadway Road. After raising $720 through donations on a GoFundMe campaign, the Dracut resident covered the rest and the swing was installed recently at the park.

The bucket seat from Landscape Structures, which meets Americans with Disabilities Act standards, is made of plastic and has the proper restraints so no one can fall out of it, according to Recreation Director Lori Cahill. The seat with its harness provides greater stability for children with limited upper-body strength, according to the company website.

Last Wednesday, Pimentel walked toward the blue swing at one end of the park’s swingset. The sky above was a gloomy gray and few children were playing on the field. None were on any of the swings, perhaps because of large puddles that had formed from the rain.

“I want to make people aware that it’s there,” said Pimentel as she looked at the bucket seat. “It makes me feel good to see it. I will feel better when I see a handicapped person that’s never had the opportunity to swing.”

Town Manager Jim Duggan said Pimentel’s proposal to the town to have the swing installed at the park was very touching.

“I was so taken aback by the sensitivity and appreciation of wanting to do something like that on behalf of anybody that is physically challenged and it was a complete, 100 percent honor to be able to put that in,” Duggan said. “It’s a fantastic addition to an already beautiful park.”

Duggan said a sign in honor of Victor has been designed and will be installed on the swingset by the Department of Public Works within a week. He paused slightly when asked why there wasn’t a swing of this kind at the park before this.

“I don’t have an answer... that was potentially something that could have been an oversight from the original (park) design many years ago, but it’s something that we are sensitive to now and we will absolutely be addressing that at other parks that have playground equipment,” Duggan said.

Duggan later added that the town is taking steps to add handicapped accessible playground equipment to Dillon-McAnespie Park, which is located at 2169 Lakeview Ave.

Sharon’s husband, Lee, said the new swing is a blessing.

“This is for my brother. He couldn’t go out and get on a swing. They didn’t have them then,” Lee, 73, said of their childhood in Dracut. “He was bedridden. He couldn’t do anything and so the swing is like a brightness. ... it’s a brightness for me and my brother.”

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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