A little more than five years ago, a unique playground began to take shape at Challenge Grove Park in Cherry Hill.
The Aug. 3, 2011, edition of The Cherry Hill Sun included the story of the groundbreaking of a new playground called Build Jake’s Place Boundless playground. The groundbreaking for the playground took place on July 27, with construction taking just a few months. The playground opened to the public on Oct. 15.
The playground was unlike any other in the area. It was the first playground in South Jersey specifically designed to allow both disabled and able-bodied children to play together.
Joseph Nasto and Kathleen Cummings, the parents of Jake Cummings Nasto, started the idea for Build Jake’s Place. Jake was born 10 weeks premature and with only half a heart, unfinished lungs and other issues. Jake passed away at the age of just 2 after complications from his third open-heart surgery.
Joseph, Kathleen and Kathleen’s parents Jim and Lynn Cummings decided to form a nonprofit shortly after Jake’s death called Build Jake’s Place.
“I took (Jake) to a playground in Voorhees once, and I was watching him play with the other kids,” Kathleen said in 2011.
“He was so young. You could tell he thought he was one of the gang, and he hadn’t gotten old enough to feel like he couldn’t do something,” Kathleen added.
Build Jake’s Place began raising money to build a $250,000 “boundless” playground, or a playground without limits for all children. Large donations from CVS, R.E. Pierson Construction, Prudential Fox & Roach Charities, Cherry Hill Silver Diner, Keller Williams Realty, Ballard Spahr and Cherry Hill and Pennsauken students and teachers helped pay for the playground.
The playground opened just a couple months after the groundbreaking on Oct. 15, 2011. On the weekend of Sept. 10 and 11 of that year, hundreds of volunteers visited the site to help with construction and putting the playground together. Nasto recognized the volunteers at the grand opening.
“This event is the culmination of an incredible effort by the people of this area who believe every child deserves a place to play,” Nasto said.
Since the playground’s opening, it has become a go-to place during most of the year for parents and their children. Build Jake’s Place continued to have a presence at the park after the Camden County Board of Freeholders constructed Boundless Field in the spring 2013. The field allows kids with disabilities to play baseball. When the field opened, Build Jake’s Place founded the Camden County NJ Miracle League, a baseball league for people of all ages with disabilities. Build Jake’s Place also runs a program called Ravitz Rides, where children of all abilities are transported every Tuesday for two months of the year to Build Jake’s Place playground for an afternoon of playtime and fun.
As the Cherry Hill playground celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, Build Jake’s Place has big plans for the future. The nonprofit is now raising money to build second playground in Delran.
To learn more about Build Jake’s Place or to donate, visit www.buildjakesplace.org.
Written by: Mike Monostra of The Cherry Hill Sun