GREENSBURG — Mayor Dan Manus and Parks and Recreation Superintendent Bob Barker met Thursday morning in Rebekah Park with members of the Greensburg Chamber of Commerce and fundraiser Courtney Rudd to cut the ribbon on a newly installed handicapped accessible swing.
Rudd, mother to three small children and one foster child, frequents Rebekah Park and the new splash pad. While at the park one afternoon, she overheard a couple talking about their handicapped child’s inability to use the swings.
“I sent an email while sitting here with the kids and started a fundraiser on Facebook. We raised the funds for the swing overnight,” Rudd said.
The cost of the specially designed swing was $1,348 dollars, $656.92 of which was raised by Facebook respondents just 24 hours after the impromptu campaign kicked off.
“I love my kiddos, and I had a grandmother who raised all her children in a four room house,” Rudd said. “Some of those children suffered with Friederich’s ataxia, and that led me to open my heart and mind ... to children with disabilities.”
Friederich’s ataxia is a rare genetic disease that causes difficulty walking, a loss of sensation in the arms and legs, and impaired speech. It’s also known as spinocerebellar degeneration and causes damage to parts of the brain and spinal cord and can also affect the muscles around the heart.
Over time, Friedreich’s ataxia becomes worse. About 15 to 20 years after symptoms emerge, many people with Friedreich’s ataxia have to rely on a wheelchair. Those who have advanced ataxia might not be able to get around at all. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among people with Friedreich’s ataxia. It usually becomes fatal by early adulthood. People with mild ataxia symptoms generally live longer.
Friedreich’s ataxia affects approximately 1 in every 40,000 people.
“We had a spare bedroom and I have an open heart, so we decided to use that to foster another child,” Rudd continued. “He has muscular dystrophy, a condition very similar, so he will be in a wheelchair one day. I can’t stand the thought if him being here and not being able to use the swings, so that’s why I decided to do something about it.”
Superintendent Barker thanked Rudd for her work and explained that Rebekah Park had a therapeutic swing at one time but it was destroyed by vandals.
“This swing is much better quality than that, and we’re really happy that Rudd started this process. It’s truly high quality, and we had to make sure it was up to code. We try to make sure all of our equipment is in good repair, and we’ll be repainting some of the playground equipment on the 16th during our Day of Caring,” said Barker.
Rudd said she was happy to demonstrate that ordinary citizens can get things done when they put enough effort into it.
“I just wanted to show that it doesn’t take someone sitting behind a desk to get things done, it takes caring people,” she said.