Ribbon cutting ceremony-Tod Horton “On Deck” Playground

The Tod Horton “On Deck” playground located at the West End Youth League’s (WEYL) Duncan Field was dedicated Thursday evening May 4, in front of family, friends and WEYL board members and ball-players.

William “Tod” Horton, age 47, passed away on October 19, 2010, from a timber felling accident.

During his short life, Horton was involved in many activities, including being West End Youth League President, coaching high school girls basketball, T-ball, fast pitch, youth basketball and the Demolition Derby committee.

He married De Ann Hurn on March 2, 2002, in Forks, at the time of his death his daughter Kray was just 6 years old.

From the day his girls were old enough to participate in sports, Tod coached and supported them.

Last year, when Kray aged out of WEYL participation, she decided she wanted to take on the project of creating a playground in memory of her dad. While she and her mother had traveled to different fields for games they had noticed that many of the fields incorporated a playground for the younger children that weren’t yet old enough to play on the youth league teams.

The first thing they needed to do was ask for permission. The first call was to Ed Duncan, he had donated the land that is now used by WEYL. He and his family gave Kray their blessing and loved the idea.

Kray next attended a WEYL board meeting and asked to build the playground near the ballfields, it was unanimously approved. The project needed a name and family friend Lonnie Rigby came up with the name “On Deck.” Kray’s mother De Ann said, “It was so fitting considering this playground is specifically built for 2-5 year-olds that are at the fields while their older siblings play ball and they themselves are waiting “On Deck” until they can join T-Ball!”

The real work began with fundraisers

The total needed to complete the project was $50,000. Kray’s first fundraiser was a bake sale during her dad’s annual memorial baseball tournament held each year the third weekend in June. Kray and her friends sold baked goods and also sold tickets to win one of Krays’ grandmother Elaine Hurn’s famous wild blackberry pies. The two-day sale raised $1,200.

Taking advantage of the large crowd in town for the Fourth of July they asked local businesses, friends, and family to donate items to make up four gift baskets which were then raffled off during the three-day holiday. They raised over $4,000.

In August with the help of her sister Whitney, Kray wrote letters and mailed them to businesses in Clallam and Grays Harbor Counties asking for donations. The letters generated another $11,000 in donations.

It was also at this time that they became aware that they could apply for a grant through First Federal Savings. Friend, Jolene Winger, took on the task of writing the grant and wrote a very persuasive letter as to why this project should be the recipient of a grant. Then they waited and finally, in October they got the call that they had indeed been awarded a $25,000 grant from the First Federal Foundation.

With the First Federal grant in hand, it left the project just $8,000 shy of the $50,000 goal. It was not long after that they got a call from the Lloyd Allen Charitable Trust and they wanted to be a part of this project too. They donated the final $8,000.

In four months they had reached their goal of $50,000, it looked like the playground would be up and usable by the fast approaching baseball season. But mother nature and some other problems arose. First, it rained, it snowed it was not the best weather for installing a playground. Initially, the Forks Lions Club had volunteered to install the playground but that was not going to work out. The company that makes the playground could install it in two days but that meant they needed more money to cover the installation. It just happened about that time the Lloyd Allen Trust sent an email checking in on the progress of the project. When they learned of the need for more funds they stepped up again and donated the cost of installation.

De Ann acknowledged the local participation saying, “I apologize greatly if I forget to thank anyone but I do need to recognize Scott Baysinger and crew for their hard work and dedication to helping guide us through this process. He did the dirt-work, the cement, fencing, and netting and helped with the rubber mulch.”

De Ann also thanked Jerry Leppell and his crew for their help in unloading the huge pallets of playground equipment in the snow using two forklifts as well as unloading seven 2,000 pound bags of rubber mulch.

She also acknowledged community members and others that held fundraiser in support of the project; LulaRoe owners Tabetha Gaydeski and Sarah Fletcher, Tod’s daughter Whitney held a Paint and Sip Fundraiser over the 4th of July, Forks High School senior Parker Browning raised $400 from his senior project, M&P Overhead Doors of Port Angeles donated 25 percent from service calls to Forks for two months, and lastly the first Federal Foundation and the Allen Foundation that came through twice.

As the time came to cut the ribbon and let Tod’s children and grandchildren in first and then the community, she added,”Our friends and family gave so much time to help Kray and me through this journey every step of the way.” She thanked her friends for being there, for lending a shoulder to cry on when needed and their endless support.

As Kray cut the ribbon and opened the gate the creation of new memories began, as this playground will stand in memory of a giving member of this community and a 25-year supporter of WEYL, Tod Horton.