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ICD celebrates new social learning center

By : Eric Coker

Ray Romanczyk smiled as he watched dozens of children playing outdoors at the Institute for Child Development’s new social learning center.

“You look at every single piece of apparatus and every area: someone is doing something,” the ICD director said. “It is just great. It’s worked out really well.”

The children’s visit to the play area was the culmination of the Nov. 1 grand opening celebration of the ICD’s Shamrock Five Social Learning Center. More than 200 parents, children, teachers, supporters and University officials took part in the ceremony behind the ICD building on campus.

“This is such a joyous occasion for the institute, the University and all of the supporters who worked so hard to make this day possible,” President Lois B. DeFleur said.

Designed to enrich the lives of children challenged by autism spectrum disorder, the social learning center provides a year-round, safe place to play outdoors for the 75 children ranging in age from 2-11 enrolled at the ICD.

The play area features a grand entrance gate with the Gaelic
greeting “Céad Míle Fáilte” (“A hundred thousand welcomes”); a soft, all-weather, high-tech safety surface; a mounted traffic light; a playhouse; a basketball court; and a variety of playground equipment approved by the National Program of Playground Safety.

Romanczyk said conceptual designs for the social learning center began three years ago, but the $655,000 project became a reality thanks to a diverse group of supporters.

The backers include philanthropists Tim and Kim Myers of Vestal, who established the Shamrock Five Foundation (named for their five children and Kim’s Irish heritage).

“The day Tim quietly announced that he and his family would make the lead gift to the social learning center fundraising initiative was the day I knew that this day would come,” said Mary Woolson, assistant vice president for alumni and constituent relations and chair of the ICD Social Learning Center Project Committee. “The family’s commitment gave me and the committee the courage and confidence to proceed.”

Myers said his family became involved after he toured the ICD and saw a draft of the project.

“I went home that night to Kim and we both agreed that all children really need a place to play and learn,” he said. “This was a dream our family should be involved in.”

Myers also gave much credit to Woolson, who he described as a “great quarterback” who led a “great team.”

Several supporters, including Myers, received framed pictures depicting playground features drawn by the children from the ICD.

Maureen Yacynych, a parent of a child at the ICD and a member of the Project Committee, delivered an emotional thank-you to the supporters, calling the social learning center “the biggest and best classroom.”

“You may think you’ve given the children the gift of play,” she said. “But to us, you’ve given them the gift of learning. You have given them a space they will enjoy and flourish in and for that we will be forever grateful.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08