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Faith brings playground project to fruition

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A vision given to Corey and Heather Parris during a time of tragedy has come to fruition thanks to unwavering faith and a lot of community support.

The Parris family was forever changed on December 18, 2015, when one of the couple's children, three-year-old son, Raelee, unexpectedly passed away.

At age 14 months, the toddler had been diagnosed with febrile seizures. His mother said he had a seizure about every seven months after this diagnosis.

Just 45 minutes after she had checked on her son that morning, Raelee suffered a seizure and suffocated.

His death shattered their world; however, in the midst of grieving, Corey received what can only be described as a divine calling to build a playground in their hometown.

Raelee loved playgrounds, and at that time, there was not one in the Gladeville community.

"It was a vision given to my husband by God," Heather explained last week as she stood on the newly constructed Raelee Parris Legacy Playground, located next to the Gladeville Community Center.

It was a vision God saw through.

"When something was in the way, or we had a setback, we prayed. I would come out here and walk around and pray over it," she said. "We watched God work. One obstacle after another was taken care of. God made it happen."

Heather said they were simply His "soldiers on the ground."

She added that the playground, which to date has a $115,000 price tag, was "paid with love" thanks to donations and volunteers.

"A lot of blood, sweat, tears and love have gone into this," she said.

Some of this love came from the Permobil Foundation, which helped fund a Liberty Swing for the playground.

A Liberty Swing is a device which allows children who are in a wheelchair or motorized device to experience the sensation of swinging back and forth. Permobil's Ashley Davis said the swing, made in Australia, is one of the first in Tennessee and one of only a "handful" nationwide.

"A lot of times a caretaker or parent is not able to get the child out of their chair and into a swing. This way they can get in, lock the wheels (of their wheelchair or motorized device), drop the ramp and push them in the swing," Heather said.

When the playground was being talked about, Heather was adamant that it be accessible for "all children."

"We wanted it to be handicap-accessible, sensory friendly and accessible to children with special needs, too," she said, noting that there is a "Cozy Cocoon" chair to provide an enclosed space for children, who perhaps are autistic, to escape the playground if he or she becomes overstimulated.

"Raelee saw no disabilities, included everyone and loved everyone. It is for this reason the playground had to be all-encompassing of each individual's needs and disabilities," Heather continued.

A grand opening celebration for the Raelee Parris Legacy Playground is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 23. Any changes will be posted online at www.raeleeslegacy.org.

During this time, they will also have sign-ups for families who wish to receive keys for the Liberty Swing. The swing will be in a fenced-in area and only families or individuals who have signed up and been trained on how to use it will be admitted.

On Friday, former Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead presented the Parris family with a $1,000 check on behalf of the Whip Crackin' Rodeo. The money will assist in completing the playground fence.

"We were making a donation last week and (Ashley Davis) told me about the park. This is what the rodeo is about - helping children and helping Wilson County," Craighead said.

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