Dustin inspired an adventureland built in Minersville | #specialneeds | #kids

Nov. 23—The creation of a half-million-dollar all-inclusive playground, the only one of its kind in Schuylkill County, was inspired by a boy with autism.

Dustin’s Adventureland opened in September in Minersville after three years of work and some $510,000 in donations, grants, fundraising and in-kind contributions.

The inspiration for the facility was Dustin Freed, 11, of Port Carbon.

“Thanks to Dustin’s mom, Amy, and the board of directors, ALL children will be able to play together in a safe and fun setting for many years to come,” wrote the person who nominated Dustin for the 2022 Republican Herald Everyday Hero award, for which he was among four finalists.

Located at the Minersville Recreation Complex, 200 Edgar Lewis St., the 9,300-square-foot playground features sensory panels that children can spin, a 20-foot tower and slide, a modern version of a tire swing and merry-go-round, a spinner children can sit in, swings, a zip line and other equipment.

“This is our first nomination, and we’re just very excited about it and very thankful on top of it,” Amy Freed said.

The effort began when Amy Freed planned an Easter egg hunt for special needs children. Afterward, she and Jeffrey J. Dunkel were deciding what to do with remaining funds for the event, and initially discussed installing a swing for special needs children.

But it went far beyond that, leading to the development of the full playground. Dunkel, who led the fundraising efforts over the coming three years, credited Jim Womer of Womer Landscaping for suggesting the all-inclusive playground. Womer is president and Dunkel vice president of Dustin’s Adventureland board of directors,

Amy Freed was emotional at September’s ribbon-cutting, pausing at times to compose herself.

“This day will be etched into my brain forever,” she said. “I hope everyone builds wonderful memories in this spot from here on out.”

Contact the writer: amarchiano@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6023

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