Lake Harrison officially has a new park open and ready for children of all ages and abilities to enjoy.

In 2018, the in-coming Rotary president Tiffany Watkins announced “a bold goal” to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Rotary. She proposed the idea of a park where all children could play despite any physical limitations.

At that time the equipment was expected to cost more than $200,000. But that enormous amount didn’t scare off the generosity of the community and donations immediately began to add up. Matching grants were applied for and community-wide fundraisers began.

Other area civic clubs also participated with their generous donations as well as groups and individuals. Donations were grouped into categories so everyone could participate at a comfortable level.

In June 2019, the Roger and Patty Harness Family Foundation made a $50,000 diamond level donation to name the park after their granddaughter, Willa Crenshaw. “Wonder Willa” as everyone calls her was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 1 and had surgery in 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri, which allowed her to be able to walk with a walker.

Willa is the daughter of Beth and Mark Crenshaw. Beth said, “Willa was born at 27 weeks and weighed 1 pound and 12 ounces, So, she has been a fighter from the beginning. She has overcome so many obstacles to get this far, she’s an inspiration to our family and so many others.”

Before the ribbon cutting ceremony, Willa and her twin brother, Chief, braved the damp slide and play equipment to have some fun.

Watkins said Rotarians and members of the community raised $144,000 for the project. The project received a $201,000 matching grant from Arkansas State Parks and a $50,000 grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission's Community Assistance Program.

The McCuistion family donated “Collier’s Swing,” which allows children in a wheelchair to swing and not have to leave their wheelchair.

There were many “thank yous” shared on Friday by Watkins, Harrison Mayor Jerry Jackson and Parks director Chuck Eddington.

“This has been a true community project,” Watkins said. “This will be a lasting legacy for our kids for years to come.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Harrison Parks Department officials said all playgrounds, the skatepark, the dog park and tennis courts were also opened Friday.

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