WILMINGTON, MA – A new playground at Silver Lake, built in honor of Wilmington’s fallen hero Sean Collier, is now open.
The playground was donated and built by the Where Angels Play Foundation, a non-profit organization that “seeks to create joyful places to play and to provide hope, recovery, and a return to family values in the wake of senseless violence and tragedy.”
Several hundred people attended the playground’s ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, September 26. Bill Lavin, founder of Where Angels Play, hosted the event, which featured ten speakers.
Wilmington Town Manager Jeff Hull thanked Lavin for being the catalyst behind the Collier playground and for “turning darkness into light” across the country with similar projects.
Hull extended his biggest thanks to the Collier family.
“Thank you for agreeing to have this very special place in Wilmington for a very special person,” said Hull.
Hull also recognized DPW Director Mike Woods, DPW General Forman Jerry Lawrenson, Town Engineer Paul Alunni, Planning Director Valerie Gingrich, Recreation Director Debroah Cipriani, and Assistant Town Manager Kendra Amaral for their roles in the playground project. Hull also thanked the Board of Selectmen and the Wilmington Kiwanis Club for their support, the latter of which gave their blessing on having the aging playground they built be replaced.
Collier left a lasting impression on Matthew Hackett, who served as both Collier’s high school history teacher and tennis coach.
“He was the nicest kid, always smiling,” recounted Hackett. “Sean was an excellent teammate. He genuinely cared about others.”
Somerville Deputy Police Chief Mike Cabral, a Wilmington resident, discussed Collier’s progression from a criminal justice major at Salem State University, to an intern with the Somerville Police Department, to an auxiliary officer in Somerville, to an MIT Police Officer.
Cabral noted Collier graduated first in his class at the transit academy, for which he paid on his own while working full-time.
“Sean left us too soon, but he made a difference in so many lives,” said Cabral. “He was loved by all of us, and is a special part of the Wilmington, MIT and Somerville Police communities.”
Cabral thanked Wilmington Veterans Agent and Selectman Lou Cimaglia for his role in helping to bring the Where Angels Play Foundation, the Collier family and Wilmington officials together.
MIT Police Chief John DiFava, also a Wilmington resident, spoke highly of Collier.
“In my 42 year-career, my greatest privilege was knowing Sean, and my greatest tragedy was losing him,” said DiFava. “Few are born to wear the uniform. Sean was one of them.”
According to DiFava, Collier was popular among the student body and, to this day, is remembered across the college campus.
“Not a day goes by at MIT when Sean isn’t mentioned,” said DiFava. “I mean, how many people can say they have a medical research paper named after them?”
“This playground honors him more than anything else that has been done so far,” remarked DiFava.
Boston Firefighter Joe Minehan, a key volunteer on the project, discussed what attracted him to building playgrounds – hope.
“It’s really an amazing feat to turn tragedy into joy,” said Mineham. “I’d like to thank the children of Wilmington, in advance, for keeping Sean’s legacy alive.”
Jomarie O’Mahony, representing State Representative Jim Miceli, presented the Collier family with a congratulatory citation from the State House.
State Senator Bruce Tarr discussed how the newly constructed playground embodies “the spirit of partnership” and “the spirit of freedom.”
“When someone tries to take our joy, we will build a playground,” said Tarr. “This [structure] will help us come together to remember, commemorate, and think about a brighter future.”
“The entire nation remembers his sacrifice,” noted Kate Machet, from Senator Ed Markey’s office, along with Ariel Vega from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office.
Former New England Patriots players Joe Andruzzi, who addressed the crowd briefly, and Matt Chatham were in attendance. Collier was a huge Patriots fan.
Andy Collier, Sean’s brother, expressed gratitude to the Town of Wilmington and Where Angels Play.
“I can’t wait to bring my kids here one day so they can play with their uncle,” said Collier.
“Doing great things in Sean’s name is what’s helping [me and my family] get through the day,” said Collier.
Collier hopes that the messages that Sean’s nieces and cousins drew on the playground (e.g., “Look Before Crossing,” “Police Officers Are Our Friend”) will provide opportunities for parents to have important conversations with their kids.
Collier also encouraged the public to donate to Where Angel Play.
“Sean is a hero and a champion, but his work is not over,” said Bill Lavin. “His work continues through us as more parks sprout up across the country.”
The Sean Collier Memorial Playground is the 34th playground constructed by Where Angels Play.
Also at the Ceremony:
- Sean’s parents received a Where Angels Play flag from an Assistant Principal from Sandy Hook Elementary.
- Sean’s grandparents raised the American flag and a Where Angels Play flag.
- Sean Collier’s brother and sisters randomly distributed envelopes with $20 bills to audience members, asking them to “pay it forward” in Sean’s name.
- Collier was honored not only from land, but also air and sea. There was an American flag on a raft in the middle of Silver Lake and an airplane banner above that read “Officer Sean loved Kids, Family & USA.”
- A round of applause was given for police officers. A moment of silence was had for officers, and armed service members, who were lost in the line of duty.
- Members of the Boston Children’s Theatre sang the National Anthem and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
- Wilmington police officers and fire fighters had a significant presence, including as members of the color guard. The Fire Department displayed a giant American flag from a tower truck.
- Sean’s family unveiled the playground’s plaque.
- Dozens of children enjoyed the playground once the ribbon was cut.
Watch the video below, courtesy of Wilmington Community Television. WCTV’s Tom Pazyra did a wonderful job filming and editing the piece.
Here are a few photos from the ceremony:
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