Progress Being Made on Willow Park, Donations Being Accepted


Published on November 6 2013 11:39 am
Written by Wayne Moran

"Willow Park", as it's being called, in memory of Willow Long has been making progress behind the scenes, and the group behind its creation says it hopes to have the dedication of Willow Park by Memorial Day Weekend, 2014.

Below is a press release sent out by the Willow Park committee, including information on a recent fundraiser that garnered over $2,000 for the effort, a newly released diagram of the park's layout, and information on how you can help in the effort to build Willow Park. You can also follow the effort to build Willow Park on their Facebook page, located here.

We wanted to give all of you an update and let you know that much work has already been achieved behind the scenes. As you can see from the drawing we have developed a general layout of the park. Certain items and landscaping details have not yet been determined but this plan does serve as a good starting point.

Click the image for a larger view (will open in a new window/tab)

We have already selected various playground items to include in our plan, we will be adding a semi-privacy fence in the back of the Park and we will also be constructing an outdoor basketball court. Although much of the playground equipment will not be able to be installed until spring we do hope to have the concrete poured for the basketball court within the next week to ten days, weather permitting. Regarding the court, one item we are happy to share right away is that the basketball poles were constructed and donated entirely by Bierman’s Welding, located here in Effingham. A call was made regarding our need for two poles and within a short time Chuck Bierman had called back to say “yes” that they would not only do the work but would also donate them to the Park. The committee is truly grateful to Chuck and Jim Bierman as well as all their staff for stepping up to help us. Additionally, we will soon have some more fantastic news to share about other very generous donations being directed towards the construction of the park.

The committee would like to send out a big THANK YOU to Vanessa Merritt. She is the lady who helped to organize a very worthwhile event called “Walk for Willow”. The event was held on Sunday afternoon, October 20 at Effingham Community Park. As a result of Vanessa’s and her friends’ efforts she raised over $2000.00 that day. As she had intended from the beginning, a large portion of the money was to go to the Park and she also wanted to recognize the efforts of the local emergency personnel who worked extra hours during the search times.

Vanessa Merritt presents a check for $391.00 to Matt Kulesza, Watson Fire Chief. These monies were raised during the “Walk for Willow” event.

Others who were invited to participate that afternoon with the “Walk for Willow” were T.J.Hodges and his business, “Roses from Linda” as well as Victoria Martin – Irvin and her business “Pink Zebra”. Both parties have indicated they will be making donations towards the Park as well.


The Willow Park Committee is shown receiving a check from Vanessa Merritt in the amount of $1771.04. Committee members (l to r) are Gary Beck, Lucas Lawrence, (Merritt), Dave Ring, DeAnna McWilliams, Duane Sapp and Tara Hagen. These monies were raised during the “Walk for Willow” event. Others who were invited to participate that afternoon with the “Walk for Willow” were T.J.Hodges and his business, “Roses from Linda” as well as Victoria Martin-Irvin and her business “Pink Zebra”. Both parties have indicated they will be making donations towards the Park as well.

As we move forward we do know that we will need the financial support of you, our friends. We think this is truly a grassroots effort and we do not want this project to be a financial strain on anyone. As of the date of this writing we have 2452 “likes”. Again, not to be a burden on anyone but if those of you who have “liked” us could maybe donate $10.00 each we would of course raise $24520.00. At $20.00 each, $49040.00 would be raised. We fully realize that not everyone can afford to make a donation. Please know as well that a donation of any size is greatly appreciated. For those of you who can donate however, please send (or drop off) your donation to the following address:

Willow Park Fund
Fifth Third Bank
200 E. Jefferson Avenue
Effingham, IL 62401

For anyone wishing to make a more sizeable donation, we do have varying sponsorship levels available:

$500 to $1000 - Bronze
$1000 - $2500 - Silver
$2500 - $5000 - Gold
$5000 & Over- Platinum

At the conclusion of our campaign a Donor Wall will be established listing all of our major donors. We hope to have the dedication of Willow Park by next Memorial Day Weekend, 2014. If you would, please “share” this story so that our efforts can go much further.