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HOLDEN BEACH — A jungle gym and swing set are in place along the Intracoastal Waterway, just across the street from the Holden Beach town hall.
They are the first signs that the playground in the newly named Bridgeview Park is under construction.
The idea for a playground grew out of the thought that Holden Beach residents would be willing to donate a little money for a swing set and jungle gym to give kids a place to play.
John Lytvinenko, the former president of the Holden Beach Property Owners Association, brought the idea for the playground to the POA to a partner with the town on a playground.
“Our proposal was to go forward and do the fundraising, for approximately $15,000, for the planned jungle gym and swing set,” he said.
Lytvinenko said it was the first time he knew of anyone on the beach trying a public/private partnership. He wasn’t sure how it would work or if they would be able to reach their fundraising goal.
“We thought if we could raise $3,500 to do the swing set, if we got a ‘Phase I’ done, then we could raise more,” he said.
In less than a year, the playground idea brought in nearly three times the amount of money the group was hoping for and the town found a site for it along the water.
Lytvinenko and his wife, Linda, had been living on Holden Beach for five years when, in September 2009 his granddaughter, Sienna, was born. The birth of his grandchild made him realize there were no playgrounds on Holden Beach.
He asked around the community why that was and was told there was talk of building a playground, even plans for one, but it never happened.
While serving as Holden Beach POA president, he decided to propose building a playground. He took the idea to the POA members association meeting on Memorial Day 2012 and received approval to plan a playground to present to the town board.
“We wanted a community service project to work with the town,” Lytvinenko said.
With Robert Valois and Wayne Tucker, Lytvinenko put together a presentation and took it to the Holden Beach town board in September 2012.
Lytvinenko said Commissioner Sandy Miller sent it to the town’s parks and recreation board members, who were in the process of creating a park.
“I said nothing demonstrates a family beach more than a playground,” he said.
Lytvinenko said they intended to start out small, with just a swing set and small jungle gym and not interfere with any big park plans.
“I asked for a small triangular piece of the ground,” he said.
By the end of the year, the parks and rec board included the playground into a park plan at the site across the street from town hall, under the water tower.
Lytvinenko said once they received approval from the town, staff set up a separate account in the budget for the funds where people could make tax-deductible donations.
Then it was time to get people interested.
A playground committee was created that included Dalois and Tucker, Ben Byrnside and Cyndi Kiernan. Ralph and Gina Martin, who is now a town councilwoman, also joined the committee. They created a marketing campaign called “Let’s Build a Holden Beach Playground Together.”
Valois’ granddaughter, Jennifer Denton, drew a logo that the committee put on T-shirts and sold as part of the fundraiser.
They worked with Holden Beach staff to create a fundraising flyer that the town mailed to every property owner, more than 2,300 people.
The committee also put money jars in participating restaurants and businesses.
The committee bought a booth at that year’s Day at the Docks event, which was held at the end of April, and by the end of the weekend they hit the $15,000 goal.
“We overachieved,” Lytvinenko said.
They also got lucky by meeting Kim Heath at the Day at the Docks, Lytvinenko said.
Heath, who lived on the mainland near Holden Beach, came to the event and met the fundraising committee members.
“Heath is a certified playground designer. She donated her services to us to help design and help pick out the equipment,” Lytvinenko said. “She knew all of the national (safety rating) requirements so she became part of the committee.”
Lytvinenko said she was indispensible in meetings with the town to place the equipment orders and they especially benefitted from her including handicap accessible playground equipment.
He said it was an area they hadn’t considered up to that point based on their inexperience.
The committee also benefitted from Greg Shue, a Holden Beach architect, creating a rendering of what the anticipated playground would look like for promotional materials.
“It helped tremendously for fundraising. People were able to visualize it,” Lytvinenko said.
Lytvinenko said after reaching their goal, he thought the money would stop.
“But it just kept coming in,” he said. “We didn’t know how to stop, so we bought more equipment.”
Not long after the committee hit its goal at the Day at the Docks, Lytvinenko said he received a call one Sunday morning from a visitor to Holden Beach who found one of the fundraiser flyers in the house he was renting.
“The guy calls me and says he’s been coming to Holden Beach for 50 years with his family. He asked how much money we needed to hit the $15,000,” Lytvinenko said. “I told him we were close or had already hit it, but that it was our minimum to get a swing set and jungle gym and that we could do more with more money.”
Lytvinenko said the two met at the water tower to visit the site of the playground and after talking about the project, the man told him he would donate $10,000. And the next morning he brought him a check.
Lytvinenko said the donor isn’t a Holden Beach homeowner, but a resident of Kentucky who comes back to the town every year.
He added the man never wanted recognition for the donation, so he only identified him as “just a friend of the town with a big heart.”
By June, the playground committee had received $39,000 in donations. By the end of the summer the total funds available for the playground was more than $43,000, Lytvinenko said.
Lytvinenko said the playground committee appreciated the donations, big and small, from everyone.
“I’d like to say a personal thank you to the property owners and all the friends of Holden Beach who made this happen,” he said.
The Lytvinenkos moved off Holden Beach a few months ago. They relocated to Cary to be closer to their grandchildren.
Although he isn’t here to see the playground now that it is being installed, Lytvinenko is still excited to hear about their goal coming to fruition.
“I can’t wait for it to be built,” he said.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.