Prior to her death in July 2011, Celina Whale loved to swing in Millsboro's Cupola Park.
Prior to her death in July 2011, Celina Whale loved to swing in Millsboro’s Cupola Park.
“She couldn’t walk or talk, but she was so full of joy,” said Louise Whale, Celina’s mother. “When she was on a swing, she had the biggest smile on her face.”
Whale, 11 at the time of her death, was born with Chromosome Ring 22, a mental and physical disability. Louise and her husband Mark would often take Celina to the park so she could ride in the baby swing. However, she eventually outgrew the swing, one time flipping and nearly hitting the ground.
“I was upset because I didn’t know of any special needs swings,” Louise said.
Celina, a student at Howard T. Ennis School, died unexpectedly from intestinal ischemia, a digestive disorder. In Celina’s absence, Louise, an active member of Bethel Tabernacle Church in Frankford, turned to God.
“I started going to the park and praying,” she said. “I decided I wanted to reach out to other parents, because I knew I wasn’t the only one with a disabled child who loved to swing.”
For a year, Louise worked to acquire and install handicap swings at Cupola Park and on Sunday, her dream became a reality. Friends, family, fellow churchgoers and others gathered at the park for the dedication of two Little Tikes inclusive swings, dubbed “Celina’s Butterfly Swings.”
“I’m so glad my daughter’s life, in some way, is going to help others,” Mark said. “That’s the important thing.”
The swings and frame cost a little under $2,700, which was covered by Helping from Heaven, a nonprofit organization based in Illinois that is dedicated to improving the comfort and quality of life for children with special needs. A memorial stone placed behind the swings was donated by Lloyd Memorials in Millsboro.
Jeff and Linda Hatfield, of Millsboro, brought their 9-year-old son Dylan to the swing dedication. Dylan suffers from Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, a mental and physical disability. Dylan’s huge smile as he rode the new swing was a clear indication that he was enjoying himself.
“Dylan is too big for the baby swing; he’s flipped on it before,” Linda said, adding Dylan has two siblings without disabilities. “This is a nice opportunity to be able to come to a park that’s not too far away and have a place for Dylan to play, and the other two can go running off because the park is fenced in.”