Grateful Family Builds Playground

One day the Andrews family took a vacation, leaving their profoundly disabled daughter in the competent hands of respite staff at Mayflower (now Radius) Pediatric Center in Plymouth, MA. When they returned her giggles and smiles told them she had enjoyed her stay.

Shannon, shown at age 5,
inspired her family to build a playground.

Mike, who works in the construction supply business, and his wife Patty, a nurse, soon got back into the routine of work and 24 hour care. Shannon had a condition known as lissencephaly. A small army of therapists, teachers and nurses came to their house to provide services to the little girl who depended on others to meet all her basic needs.

But after a second respite stay, they noticed the change in Shannon again. “We realized that wow, she really liked it there,” said Mike. “She enjoyed the stimulation and company of her peers. It was a tough decision to place a seven year old in a nursing home, but it was one of the best things we did for her. She had a smile on her face every day she was there.”

The family became active in the Parent Advisory Council at the Radius Day School. PAC sponsored carwashes and Tupperware sales to raise money for an accessible playground but after five years they weren’t even close to the thousands needed. So when Shannon passed away in 2009 at age 21, Mike, Patty, and Shannon’s two younger sisters, Meg and Kaelin, suggested donations as a fitting memorial.

“Shannon thrived at Radius and we wanted to give something back,” said Mike.

Donations from local lumber companies and community groups put the fund over the top and construction finally got underway in April 2011. Mike used his architecture background to design the covered play areas and enlisted friends such as Al Cedrone and Tony Salvucci to help him build the playground on Saturdays. As word spread, Carpenters Local 33 of Boston got involved.

“Every week people who didn’t even know me, or Shannon, or my family, showed up and put in time,” Mike said.

Linda White, director of education at the Radius Day School, said the Shannon Andrews Memorial Playground provides expanded learning opportunities for day students and residents.

“Everything is within reach. All but one of our students are in wheelchairs, so the ramps and railings give them safe access to covered outdoor areas. Next spring we plan to introduce activity boards to work on fine motor skills and attention goals outside. The kids can experience movement in two hammocks and sensory stimulation in the sandbox and other play space,” she said.

Learn more about Radius at www.radiushealthcarecenters.com/pediatric