Helping turn a family tragedy into a community triumph
Addleman, the vice president of Recreation Creations, Inc., a playground equipment company based in Hillsdale, Mich., had heard the family story many times before. In 1936, an uncle bearing the same name had accidentally died while playing football in Blissfield’s Ellis Park.
That was the end of the story until nearly 70 years later when Addleman added another chapter. One day in 2002 he received a call from Blissfield native Ted Case, who was part of a local committee that was trying to install new playground equipment at all of Blissfield’s three parks, including Ellis.
Case, a longtime supporter of Michigan International Speedway, a 180,000-plus-seat racetrack less than 30 minutes from Blissfield, had previously worked with Addleman and Recreation Creations in designing and constructing a playground on the MIS infield. The project was one of the first of its kind and was built to serve as a playground for racing families and their children.
“He wondered why we hadn’t had a proposal in Blissfield because we were so close,” Addleman said, recalling his initial phone conversation with Case. In fact, Case had remembered the story of the death of Addleman’s uncle and invited Addleman to visit Blissfield.
“I came down [to Blissfield] and met [Case],” Addleman said. “That’s how I got involved. He even showed me where [his uncle] had died on the field.” With Addleman on board, the Blissfield community build project moved quickly.
“We donated some, we discounted in honor of my uncle to get [the project] going,” Addleman said. “We wanted to make it as competitive as possible to get started.”
RCI, started in 1975 and currently with more than 50 employees, also helped with the design, and even was on site to aid in the construction process, which began in September 2002. It took less than one month to complete the first project, Bachmayer Park.
“We came up with the design and the colors matched what they wanted and what fit there,” Addleman said. “It turned out really nice.”
The rusty, deteriorating equipment that was at least 30 years old was replaced with state-of-the-art equipment. The main piece in Bachmayer Park was a purple and gold (the local school colors) structure that is handicap accessible and has several slides and other areas to climb. In fact, the piece was so successful that RCI included it in its 2005 catalog.
RCI also provided the equipment for the second build, which took place in June 2004 at Ellis Park.
Addleman said the new equipment should last at least 50 years. Much of it is made of either galvanized steel or durable plastic. The steel is coated with powder paint, which is smooth to the touch and can withstand the constant use of children. He said RCI’s equipment can come in any color of the rainbow, and the safety standards far exceed that of the old equipment.
Addleman said he and RCI were happy to help Blissfield in its quest for new playgrounds.
“It was pretty amazing,” Addleman said of the community involvement in the project. “I went down just to watch the kids play on it. It was pretty awesome.”