Ashland family’s playground fundraiser gets boost from local Mason community
by Julie Gerke
The kindness of strangers is bringing an even wider smile to faces of a little boy and his family in Ashland Ansar Shrine of Springfield has donated $1,000 to an effort that will bring adaptive swings to two of the village’s parks.
Additional donations also have rolled in, bringing the most recent total to $5,100 — and the possibility of adding other adaptive toys to Ashland parks, far exceeding an original fundraising goal of $1,200 for two swings.
As reported in the July 6 edition of The Source Newspaper, family, friends and the people of Ashland have stepped up to buy $6 bracelets and $25 mugs to buy the swings, which look similar to infant swings but are larger and sturdier to hold older children.
The idea honors Beau Griffin, 6, who loves to use swings but no longer can use the smaller plastic seats that brace a child’s back and hold the child upright.
Beau uses a wheelchair and has trouble with fine and gross motor control because of gray matter heterotopia, which happens when some cells never arrive at the part of the brain where they are intended to be.
The early July Source story caught the eye of Tony Moore of South Jacksonville, an Ansar Shrine member who knew that Angie Cutright, wife of Shrine Potentate Jason Cutright, was raising money for similar projects. Jason Cutright, whose family owns the Petersburg Observer, reached out to a fellow Shriner in Ashland to get in touch with Beau’s mom.
“Beau just realizes the donations are so kind,” said Alaina Griffin, Beau’s mother and a nurse at Walker Nursing Home in Virginia. “I thought, ‘Shriners! That’s so nice.’ We’re really excited.”
The $6 bracelet sales continue to add up, with a family member’s effort in Georgia bringing in another $140, she said. “It’s pretty great,” she expressed.
With the community support, she’s decided to ask the town council for enough money — or a match — to add adaptive spring rider toys at the parks as well.
Alaina Griffin and husband Wesley “Wes” Griffin, a staff sergeant with the Illinois Army National Guard, also are parents to Lilah, 7, and Tucker, 4. As previously announced, some of the bracelet fundraiser money will be donated to an equine therapy program at Refuge Ranch in Rochester.
The limited-edition mugs, made by area potter Kirby Drennan, can be ordered by emailing Pam Gardner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The handmade bracelets are emblazoned with the word “Beautiful,” with Beau’s name in color and “-tiful” in black. They can be ordered by calling or texting Alaina Griffin at 217-415-9097.
When the Cutrights learned about the Ashland project, Angie Cutright already had raised more than $5,000 from a garage sale in May, and had a quarter auction fundraiser planned for October in Springfield. Since the Griffin project already was under way, the couple decided to donate the money for whatever else is needed, rather than purchase a swing.
The Ansar Shrine swing project — officially, Angie Cutright’s project as first lady (title of spouse of potentate) — has received similar interest from Petersburg, White Hall and Chrisman. Anyone interested may call the Shrine office in Springfield at 217-525-1771.
Jason Cutright is a third-generation potentate for the 2,300-member Ansar Shrine, whose jurisdiction runs from Quincy to Danville and Atlanta to Litchfield. The potentate, or president, has a one-year term and a slogan: Cutright’s is “Communities Caring for Kids.”
“We could not do what we do without our community support,” he said. “It’s my nod to thank our communities for helping us out so much.”
The Shrine organization, whose members must already belong to Masonic lodges, oversees several children’s hospitals, including those in Chicago and St. Louis. Some of the money raised from the Shrine swing project will benefit play areas at those sites as well.
“When you become a Shriner, you gain another entire family,” Cutright said. “It’s a lot of fun and great people who do great work. We have pride in helping some very tremendous kids: That’s the reward at the end of the day, the smile on those kids’ faces.