Saturday, February 12, 2022

BUSINESSES OF THE SKOOK #3: Dustin's Adventureland

Skook News and People of Skook met up with Dustin's Adventureland's president Jim Womer, vice president Jeffrey Dunkel, Secretary Tonya Hoppel to talk about an amazing local non-profit in our area.
“Our organization started as a special needs fundraiser a couple of years ago. Amy Freed, the mother of Dustin, made a post looking for ideas to hold a special needs egg hunt after attending another egg hunt that was not able to accommodate special needs children. I was tagged in a post, we started communicating, and we came up with an idea to sell raffle tickets for it. We ended up raising a considerable amount of money for it, and we held the egg hunt, which ended up being pretty large (118 kids). The state police came up with beeping eggs for children who were visually impaired, we had a wheelchair section, 15 costume characters come, and egg dying station, etc. We ended up having leftover money, we were trying to decide what to do with the money (either donate it or come up with a nonprofit to keep it going). We thought of putting a swing set up locally with a plaque on it in honor of Dustin's name. I then ran into Jim Womer and asked if he would be willing to install the swing set for us, which he was all for. He said to me that he always wanted to put a handicapped playground in somewhere in Schuylkill County, he’s been doing this for over 20 years and that was one of his goals. It was dumb luck we ran into each other that night. About an hour later he came out, and said the heck with the swing, we are going to put a whole playground in. This was in July of 2019.

The first thing we needed was land, so we reached out and found someone that had a couple of parcels for us to choose from. Then we went and met with Minersville borough, and we ended up signing a 20-year lease for the place it is going to be built. We also are having 8 acres that is being donated from a private entity that borders that space for future expansion.

There have been lots of hurdles, COVID being a main one with having to cancel a lot of fundraisers. The ability in this time for business’s and people to donate was rough. Physical barriers were also an issue – leases, property boundaries, lots of meetings, etc. A recent one was the ramp going into the recreation complex we thought we could use does not meet ADA compliance as of now, we are going to have to refigure the whole thing. So now what we are doing is revitalizing the one parking lot and create a new ramp. This was an additional 30 to 40k that we weren’t expecting. This is the biggest one, but we’ve always figured out a way to get through these hurdles.

Aggressively, we want to say April of 2022 we want to start construction. It depends on the funding, weather, etc. Womer’s landscaping is going to excavate everything, build the harder stuff, and then let the community come in and do the easier stuff and just monitor it. They’re doing everything free at cost in order to keep the overall cost down.

We are getting very close to our overall goal, so we hope that people keep us in their thoughts as we get closer and closer. We are also always looking for volunteers for our events, it’s a huge deal and always needed. Everything is family friendly. We are also accepting donations for blocks, and puzzle pieces that will be at the playground when built. The puzzle pieces are a great opportunity for business’s to advertise as they’ll be around the playground.

The Easter egg hunt had to be canceled the past year, and this year for health and safety concerns, however the Skook Easter bunny tour is still on and we expect to hit over 12 municipalities.

We are $47,500 away from our goal of completely funding the project and much of that thanks goes not only to our board but also the community who always makes our events successful.”

The organization will be hosting a gun raffle in May and a golf tournament in August, and are hoping towards the return of wing night at the local Amvets in Pottsville.