TOTS dedicates new playground for tots

Last Saturday, May 1, These Our Treasures, Inc (TOTS) opened and dedicated a new playground in what was a happy and emotional ceremony for parents and friends of the preschool that TOTS runs for children with disabilities.

“Our dream was always to have a additional playground space,” said Nikki Dinapoli, executive director of TOTS, “but with lack of funding, we came up with this tag sale.”

“Last year’s raised the money to put a lovely playground in what was once just a lot of empty pavement. “We started doing this last year, and raised about $4,000. Now this one is to help pay expenses, like the new security camera,” explained Dianne Bradford, program coordinator for TOTS.

The playground was a triumph for the school, which held this year’s sale in order to raise additional funding for some lingering expenses. Clowns, a giant Elmo, and Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and Councilman Jimmy Vacca were all on hand to enjoy the sunshine and smiles of parents whose children had waited for this playground a long time.

TOTS dedicated the space to the memory of all the children that TOTS has lost since its opening 37 years ago. However, one student in particular who passed recently was especially commemorated with a poster and his name on the large plastic sign above the playground’s slide. The sign reads “Celebrating the Spirit of Josue 2010,” in reference to Josue Delacruz, who died of a cancer-related illness one year ago. Josue’s mother, Irhina, is from Soundview but has since moved to California. She came all the way from the west coast to be at the TOTS playground dedication ceremony.

“This all shows how special Josue was, and hopefully now people will know his story and always be good to their children while they have them,” said Delacruz. “He wasn’t even supposed to live two weeks. He was born with half a heart, and then he got cancer. So his six years were a miracle.” Delacruz said that through a Facebook group and other methods, people have reached out to her and felt inspired by Josue’s legacy. Even a few friends of Delacruz’s from college, who she hadn’t seen in years, had come out for the playground dedication.

Finally, Assemblyman Benedetto said, “One of the greatest joys I have… is hearing kids playing in a schoolyard.” Benedetto was a teacher himself before becoming an assemblyman, and he told everyone present that the TOTS preschool “has always been near and dear to my heart.” At this point, Benedetto and Vacca surprised the crowd by revealing that they will make a donation of $1,000 to TOTS to help them cover any leftover expenses from the new playground.

Reach Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383.

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