held Sunday to honor those fallen on Sept. 11, 2001, were no doubt solemn occasions. The event held at in Rumson was no exception, but was a bit more lighthearted with its solemnity punctuated by the laughter and gleeful cries of children.
Parents and several dozen children came out late afternoon on Sunday, Septeber 11 for the official dedication of a new playground at the school at 50 Black Point Road, as well as a bronze plaque honoring local contributors and the . The foundation was formed in honor of Keith D. McHeffey, who perished at age 31 in the attack on the World Trade Center. McHeffey grew up in Fair Haven and Rumson, and attended Rumson schools his entire life.
Not to downplay the solemnity of the occasion, but those in attendance were celebrating the spirit of McHeffey – how he lived his life – more so than how he perished.
“Keith liked to be outdoors having fun – so that’s how we’re remembering him,” said KDM Foundation Trustee Gregg Kennedy.
Carolyn Cashion of the Friends of Deane Porter Playground, seconded this.
“It’s a unique, challenging playground. It’s a big deal, it’s the 10th anniversary, and it’s nice to have his name memorialized and honored at the school he went to. It’s such a tragic loss – it’s nice to have something good and celebrate something good on such a tragic, mournful day,” said Cashion.
KDM Trustee David Devlin attended the playground dedication, and felt it was a fitting tribute.
“I think it’s great. It’s exactly what we had in mind when we started KDM Foundation – giving back to the community in Keith’s name through venues he enjoyed using as a child, and would’ve enjoyed witnessing kids doing today,” said Devlin.
Steve Kane, a foundation trustee, agreed with Devlin and the memorialization of McHeffey, and was pleased with outpouring from area residents.
“I think after 10 years, we have enough community support to keep Keith’s legacy alive,” said Kane.
The playground project was spearheaded by Cashion, Tiffini Haley and Katherine Kentz – all of Friends of Deane Porter Playground (FDP) – who approached KDM in April regarding the idea.
“We did this playground in four months. Rumson Board of Education was already renovating the field,” said Cashion. “It was a $60,000 playground, and KDM covered one-third of the cost. We had very generous donations from the community – through word-of-mouth and our Facebook page, we raised donations.”
Kennedy had nothing but praise for Cashion and the FDP.
“It’s a great project that Carolyn Cashion, Tiffini Haley and Katherine Kentz did. They approached us to help them,” said Kennedy. “They had a great idea, and better vision of what it could be, and the KDM Foundation kick-started it with a contribution of $20,000.”
Kelly added his praise for the group.
“We offered to jump-start it, but they did most of the heavy lifting. We did the Memorial Field and playground project at , and helped Fair Haven Parents for Parks, so this was a good fit,” said Kelly.
The new playground includes swings, basketball courts, a unique rope Space Net climber jungle gym, slide, a maze, and a climbing wall – all with a generous cushion of wood mulch – and surrounded by new sod.
“It’s fabulous! My kids will be here regularly. The spider web jungle gym is fabulous. It’s nice to have a whole bank of swings – not many playgrounds have swings,” said a Fair Haven mother, Bennett Coleman.
The children at the dedication frolicked on the swings and jungle gym, or shot hoops and enjoyed themselves – as children should – but were probably unaware of the efforts the KDM has put forth. As mentioned earlier, their first project was Piping Rock Park on East River Road, then Fair Haven Fields playground, Memorial Park – the list goes on and on.
“We’ve been doing this for 10 years – we’ve given out scholarships. We’ve given out the largest amount, $2,500, to student athletes,” said Kennedy.
Trustee Dan Kelly from Little Silver emphasized KDM’s ongoing involvement.
“We’ve supported recreation programs and worked on parks because Keith enjoyed the outdoors and sports. As important, it affects numerous people throughout the community, starting with the kids,” said Kelly
The Foundation’s main fundraiser is the , an annual ritual in Sea Bright.
“We took over the St. Pat’s 5K from Donovan’s, Sea Bright, which is now the KDM Fun Run which draws close to 1,000 a year, and is growing every year,” said Kennedy. “We also get generous donations from our friends and the community in general.”
The KDM Foundation consists of trustees are David Devlin, Steve Kane, Mike Panter, Bill Crow, Gregg Kennedy, Dan Kelly and Jeff White, all of whom grew up with McHeffey.
Most trustees were present at the Sept. 11 event, which also included foods such as cheese and crackers, dips, cookies, brownies and beverages. While supporters noshed, Kennedy and Cashion gave short, informal speeches to dedicate the playground and bronze plaque located by the school.
Following the dedication, and standing amidst the new equipment was Colleen O’Connor, president of the Board of Education for Deane Porter and Forrestdale Schools.
“It’s a great addition to our grounds – when you drive down the street, the school and playground look the way a school should look,” said O’Connor.
The subdued festivities wore down, families departed, and Keith McHeffey no doubt looked down proudly on the new playground, which will keep children content for years to come.