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Volunteers help preserve memory of Cape Coral child

By Staff | May 5, 2010

The Liam J. Perk Playground is close to being completed at Rotary Park thanks to the help of nearly 250 volunteers, but more are still welcome.
Construction began March 29 on the playground, which is named after a toddler who was fatally bitten in December by one of his family’s pet dogs. Located at 5505 Rose Garden Road, it is nearly 5,000 square feet and the project, with other improvements to Rotary Park, is valued at $220,000.
On Wednesday, 21 volunteers showed up to help pour the sidewalks.
“I don’t know what we expected when this all started,” said Henry Posey, spokesman for the Perk family. “But it’s been unique because there’s some people who came out once and continue to come back. Some are neighbors, some complete strangers.”
“It’s been great,” he said.
As of Tuesday, the number of volunteers stood at 225. After adding in Wednesday’s helpers, 246 people have turned out to lend a hand. According to Posey, about 24 had committed to working today and others are welcome to come out. The city is scheduled to inspect the site Monday or Tuesday.
“We’ll be substantially complete on Friday if everything goes well,” he said.
Some of the “big jobs” left to be done are mulching today, putting down sod on Friday and installing four pieces of equipment that have already been built, Posey said. The mulch — three semitrucks of it — will go in hand by hand and will be compacted for 240 yards. Fifty bags of concrete were mixed by hand.
“The sod goes in Friday, that would be the last big volunteer day,” he said.
Those who want to help must simply show up between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
“Most every day we can find something for someone to do,” Posey said.
Volunteers do not need to have the whole day open to help out, either.
“A lot of people come out for a couple hours and that’s great too,” he said.
Posey added that the time the volunteers have put in has made a difference.
“Everything we’ve gotten done, we’d have never done that without the volunteers,” he said.
The city inspector will check to verify the project was built according to the plan, and they will know that day if the playground passed the inspection. The site will then be roped off until the official opening May 15 at the inaugural Liam’s Family Time Celebration. The event is scheduled from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.
According to Posey, the first hour of the event will involve the playground’s dedication ceremony. Members of the Perk family will speak and city officials have been invited. Afterward, a Links of Love ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held. Carrie Perk, Liam’s mother, came up with the idea to create links made from construction paper to encircle the playground for the “ribbon” cutting.
Through word of mouth, the Perks were able to collect 3-inch strips of paper from children as far away as Hong Kong, Posey said. The children wrote their names on the “links” of construction paper as well as drew pictures on them.
“We’re actually going to surround the playground with that,” he said. “Instead of cutting a ribbon, they’re going to break through the chain.”
The Liam’s Family Time Celebration will offer educational material for families on child safety, with dog bite awareness being a big portion of it.
There will be live music from a reggae band, face painting, Smokey the Bear, the Lee County Bookmobile, the Cape Coral Fire Truck Tour and helicopters. The Cape Coral Police Department will offer fingerprinting and there will be food, refreshments and ice cream available for purchase.
“Come out and enjoy some time with the family,” Posey said. “It’s a different event. It’s going to be a different flair then most events.”
There will also be raffles and a silent auction held. Some of the items available are a $500 jewelry store gift certificate, gift certificates to restaurants and businesses and signed sports memorabilia. Proceeds collected at the event will benefit the Liam J. Perk Foundation.
Posey said the group is trying to raise $20,000.
“Part will go toward paying part of the playground, but a big portion will go toward producing education materials,” he said.
On Dec. 22, 2-year-old Liam Perk was severely bitten in the neck by Lloyd, the family’s 8-year-old male Weimaraner, at their home on Southeast 45th Terrace. Liam was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Lee County Animal Services removed Lloyd from the home along with Chessy, a female Weimaraner also owned by the family. Lloyd was euthanized the next day, but Chessy was returned to Liam’s parents, Joey and Carrie Perk.
With the help of the Cape Coral Community Foundation, the Perks created the Liam J. Perk Foundation Fund to honor Liam with a playground in his name and to educate parents and dog owners through seminars, events and school presentations, providing a safer environment for children and dogs as a family.
A portion of the playground was donated by Playworld Systems Inc., a family owned playground company based in Lewisburg, Pa. Additional donations were provided by Playmore Recreational Products and Services, Kobayashi Dojo Inc., H.L. Posey Builders, Paint Misbehavin and J. Heather Harris Photography.
To donate to the Liam J. Perk Foundation Fund, contact the Cape Coral Community Foundation at 542-5594 or visit: capecoralcf.planyourlegacy.org.