Sierer, oth­ers ‘jailed’ to raise money for Pre­ston’s Play­ground

Newark Post - - LOCAL NEWS - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

In the midst of the Fu­sion 5 and Dime race af­ter-party Satur­day morn­ing, two Ne­wark Po­lice of­fi­cers walked into Grotto Pizza and “ar­rested” Fu­sion Fit­ness owner Nic DeCaire and trainer Steve Sinko.

The of­fi­cers led the hand­cuffed men to await­ing po­lice cars and drove them to join sev­eral other in­mates in a makeshift jail set up on Main Street.

Their crimes? Un­wa­ver­ing sup­port of Pre­ston’s Play­ground, the hand­i­capped-ac­ces­si­ble play­ground planned for the Ne­wark Reser­voir.

Af­ter all, as the say­ing goes, no good deed goes un­pun­ished.

The mock ar­rests, all in good-na­tured fun, were part of a jail-and-bail fundraiser or­ga­nized by DeCaire.

About a dozen peo­ple vol­un­teered to go to jail, which was ac­tu­ally a tent in front of Na­tional 5 and 10. Over the course of a cou­ple hours, they so­licited do­na­tions from passersby and used so­cial me­dia to en­cour­age friends to do­nate on­line. Each per­son had a goal of rais­ing $1,000 in or­der to be “bailed out.”

The event raised more than $11,300, DeCaire said. Just as im­por­tant, the vis­i­bil­ity of the event, held dur­ing Ne­wark’s Food and Brew Fes­ti­val, helped vol­un­teers spread aware­ness of the play­ground to peo­ple out­side their usual cir­cles.

“It was fun to be able to be out on Main Street and talk to peo­ple who don’t know about our project,” DeCaire said.

DeCaire and a host of other or­ga­ni­za­tions and com­mu­nity lead­ers are two years into an ef­fort to raise the more than half a mil­lion dol­lars needed to build the in­clu­sive play­ground, which will al­low all kids to play to­gether, re­gard­less of dis­abil­ity.

The project still needs about $100,000, but DeCaire is op­ti­mistic it can be built by the end of the year. The first stage, con­struc­tion of hand­i­capped-ac­ces­si­ble bath­room fa­cil­i­ties at the site, will be­gin soon.

The play­ground is named for Pre­ston Bue­naga, an 18-year-old Wilm­ing­ton boy who has mi­to­chon­drial dis­ease.

“If an en­vi­ron­ment is made safe and ac­ces­si­ble for all chil­dren, then chil­dren do not no­tice an­other child’s dis­abil­ity or sin­gle them out. They will be able to play to­gether side-by-side,” Pre­ston’s mother, Deb, said. “This is some­thing that Pre­ston has had to deal with for 18 years. He has not been able to ac­cess play­grounds be­cause of in­ac­ces­si­ble play ar­eas, whether there is mulch that he can­not walk through or play­ground equip­ment that is not struc­tured for him to walk on in­stead of climb.”

On Satur­day, the “in­mates” used a va­ri­ety of meth­ods to so­licit do­na­tions.

Mark Man­niso used hu­mor­ous Face­book videos both be­fore and dur­ing the event.

“I don’t look good in bars. Look at these stripes; they clash,” he said in one video, im­plor­ing fol­low­ers to do­nate – or bake him a cake with a file in it. “Help me. I’m go­ing to have a room­mate named Bubba.”

Jok­ing aside, Man­niso ex­plained that his strat­egy for get­ting do­na­tions was to ask peo­ple to imag­ine them­selves in the shoes of the kids who will ben­e­fit from Pre­ston’s Play­ground.

“Think about how it would feel not be­ing able to use a play­ground be­cause of a hand­i­cap,” he said.

Dressed in prison or­ange, with a hand­writ­ten in­mate num­ber on her shirt, Mayor Polly Sierer called out to passersby to ask for do­na­tions. She also went out on “work re­lease,” strolling Main Street with a do­na­tion bucket.

She said her net­work of friends and col­leagues re­sponded in a big way af­ter she sent out an email ask­ing for do­na­tions ear­lier in the week.

“Overnight, I got $1,700,” she said, adding that she even­tu­ally reached a to­tal of just over $2,600.

Vin­cenza Car­ri­eri-Russo and friend Sierra Wright used so­cial me­dia to spread the word about the project to the younger gen­er­a­tion.

“It’s an in­cred­i­ble cause peo­ple need to be ed­u­cated about,” Car­ri­eri-Russo said.

DeCaire was grate­ful for the num­ber of peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tions who came to­gether to make the fundraiser a suc­cess.

“It shows the Ne­wark com­mu­nity,” he said. “The po­lice got in­volved, the Na­tional 5 and 10 got in­volved, the mayor got in­volved. It shows the unique­ness we have here.”

To do­nate, visit pre­stons play­ground.com

NE­WARK POST PHO­TOS BY JOSH SHAN­NON

“In­mates” Steve Sinko, Pre­ston Bue­naga, Vin­cenza Car­ri­eri-Russo and Sierra Wright pose while rais­ing money for Pre­ston’s Play­ground on Satur­day.

Mayor Polly Sierer begs for “bail” money on Satur­day to raise money for Pre­ston’s Play­ground.

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