Special needs swings focus of June 23 awareness event at Cupola Park

MILLSBORO – The spirit of Celina Danielle Whale, an 11-year-old girl with special needs who passed away in 2011, swung into motion at Cupola Park in Millsboro two years after she passed.

Celina’s mother, Louise Whale, is holding a second public event in support of those special needs swings – Celina’s Butterfly Swings – with an eye on awareness and emphasis on respect for others.

Millsboro town council at its April 2 meeting formally approved the Saturday, June 23 date. The event will feature free food, music, dancing and children’s activities.

Celina’s Butterfly Swings at Cupola Park, donated in memory of Celina Danielle Whale for use by children with special needs.

“The swings were put in the park in September 2013 and need some TLC (tender loving care) and I would like to try again to put swings in the smaller parks around the area.,” said Ms. Whale. “That was my intention. But the swings were abused, and I would like to bring this to the attention of the surrounding communities.”

Celina, born with a rare chromosomal condition that delayed her development, attended Howard T. Ennis School in Georgetown.

“She had special needs,” said Ms. Whale. “She couldn’t walk. She couldn’t talk. But she loved to swing. That’s why I took her to that park. But she fell out of the baby swing. She kind of got a little too tall. Fortunately, she was caught by her father.”

Lloyd’s Memorials donated the Celina’s Butterfly Swings stone marker located behind the swings. Celina’s name means “Heavenly Sent.”

In memory of her daughter, Ms. Whale held an initial event at the park. Donated support led to the installation of the butterfly swings for children like her daughter and others with special needs.

“I wanted to reach out to other parents with special needs children. That’s how this whole thing came about,” said Ms. Whale.

Over time, there have been acts of vandalism and destruction.

“The first thing, somebody cut the straps with a knife – the harness straps. So, I cut straps off all the way. Periodically I check on them. People were disrespecting them,” said Ms. Whale. “Those swings are so disrespected right now. Parents let their children treat them like Jungle Gyms.”

Ms. Whale hopes that protected signage, perhaps even telling the story of how the swings came about could help deter vandalism.

“Those funds were given for the swing. So, I am going to raise funds to help to do something more,” she said.

The June 23 event, tentatively scheduled in the afternoon from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., will incorporate the Cupola Park bandstand. There will be face-painting, bubbles, balloons, worship dancing and food. It’s all free.

Her church, Spirit of Excellence Ministry of Deliverance with Pastor Ronnie Johnson, is on board in support.

While the event is geared toward outreach and awareness, financial support will be graciously accepted. It will go for upkeep. “And there are some little parks that do not have special needs swings at all,” said Ms. Whale. “That was my goal in the beginning. I’m going to try again.”

Anyone wishing to support this cause may contact Ms. Whale at 236-0277.

“This time it’s to raise funds and awareness, more of what is going on in the park. I feel like I need to give a voice,” said Ms. Whale. “It is just ridiculous that people can’t respect some special needs swings that need to be in the park. It kind of upset me. They were put there because there are other children besides ‘normal’ children.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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