Author Marion C. Garretty once said, “Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.”
The history books and the social pages are full of stories about mothers who were willing to go to the end of the world for their children.
Deserving a spot right alongside those stories is that of Oneida’s Amy Martin.
Driven by a desire to see her child have the same access to play and have fun at the public park, and with the help of a few friends, Martin has managed to accomplish what most normal human beings would have considered impossible: raise more than $100,000 in a community that is by multiple definitions the poorest in Tennessee.
A mother of four, Martin often takes her children to Oneida City Park. But when her youngest child, Joseph, was born with special needs, Martin discovered that where other children saw opportunity at the playground, JoJo saw obstacles. Things as simple as uneven pavement and grassy slopes presented challenges to him.
And Martin set out to do something about it.
Armed with a design for an all-inclusive playground built specifically for special needs and handicapped children, Martin set out to raise the funds to build it. The price tag of $173,000 might have been daunting, but she was undeterred. First she received permission from the Town of Oneida to have the playground replace the park’s seldom-used volleyball court, then she went about raising the $173,000 needed — one dollar at a time.
There have been a few small grants along the way — it was a $10,000 grant from the East Tennessee Foundation that pushed the fundraising to six digits — but for the most part, Martin and her fellow organizers have raised the money the old-fashioned way. A dollar here, five dollars there, some spare change along the way, the Play With No Boundaries foundation has raised $100,000 with no intervention from government entities above and beyond the town’s pledge to donate space at the park for the playground. The same federal government that is eager to dole out tens of thousands of dollars for ball parks and greenway trails is less willing to assist with places to play for children who cannot access traditional playground equipment.
There have been roadblocks — the very first one raised $6,000 — and coordinated events; Martin and her friends have sold brick pavers and t-shirts. Slowly but surely, the money has added up . . . still without the assistance of government agencies.
And although PWNB still needs a little more than $60,000 to make the new playground at Oneida City Park a reality, it is a lot closer than when Martin first started, when PWNB was nothing more than a dream and a new but still-empty bank account.
And those who thought it could not be done, that a mother could almost single-handedly raise over $100,000 to guarantee her son and other children like him their own place to play? They’re no longer doubting the determination of a mother . . . the fuel of mother love.