PERRY HALL — Fifteen years ago Kelli and Andy Szczybor experienced every parents’ worst nightmare, losing their baby boy Ryan.
When Ryan was only 6 months old he was diagnosed with Leukemia. And after extensive hospital visits, Ryan passed away at the tender age of 15 months.
“When Ryan passed away I knew I wanted to do something to keep his memory alive,” Kelli Szczybor said.
The family decided to turn something so sad into something positive. They set out to help others like Ryan battling cancer and those who have lost loved ones or have children with special needs. They wanted to build a place that would be a positive, safe and peaceful area that every child and family could enjoy.
They pictured a memorial garden for calm reflection, integrated with fun and unique play equipment that all children could use, regardless of physical or mental challenge.
It was with those ideas that Angel Park was born.
Angel Park will be an all inclusive playground and amphitheater facility in Perry Hall that will feature playground equipment that all kids will be able to use. And all kids will be eager to play on it when it opens next spring, because it was designed by kids.
The park will be located next to the Perry Hall Branch Library on Honeygo Boulevard.
On Wednesday, May 14, designers from Leathers & Associates met with over 4,000 students at St. Joseph School, Fullerton, Perry Hall Christian School, and Joppa View, Seven Oaks, Perry Hall, Chapel Hill, Kingsville, and Gunpowder elementary schools, to brainstorm over 4,000 ideas of what they would like to see at their park.
The next day Leather & Associates Designer James Houghton presented a rough schematic design of Angel Park at Perry Hall High School in front of hundreds of members of the community.
Houghton’s design incorporates two 40-foot long zip lines, with one featuring a therapeutic seat that any child could use, a dragon tunnel, tree house, bookworm slide, shaky bridges, pirate ship, tire swing, and much more.
The new park will be named Angel Park instead of Ryan Park because according to Kelli Szczybor, everybody has an angel.
You’re an angel as a small child to your family, and when you help out a friend or a neighbor in need, she said. And you’re an angel when you reach out to comfort a stranger, or you’re an angel when you volunteer to help others who may not be as fortunate as you.
But most importantly, everyone has lost an angel, be it a child, parent, grandparent or friend, Kelli Szczybor said.
Angel Park began about four years ago when Baltimore County Councilman David Marks learned that a developer was planning on building new homes next to the Perry Hall Branch Library, Marks said. Marks and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz were able to work with the developer and the county was able to acquire the two acres of land.
“I worked on a lot of projects in Perry Hall,” Marks said. “But this is probably the most special project.”
When Kelli Szczybor was looking for land for her future park, her uncle Bill Paulshock, who is involved in the county’s Recreation and Parks Department and current candidate for Maryland House of Delegates, knew the land was available and recommended the project to Marks.
“Everybody is giving their heart to build this special playground,” Paulshock said.
Since the park is being built on county owned land, once the park is complete it will be owned and maintained by the county.
To date, about $100,000 has been raised to complete the project. And it is expected the project will cost at least $1 million to be completed.
Once the funds are collected about 1,000 volunteers will construct Angel Park in about two weeks.
Donations can be made and volunteers can signup online at www.Angel-Park.org.
“The final project will be of the kids’ imaginations and the hard work of the community,” Houghton said.