Eagles star linebacker Connor Barwin, who knows plenty about parks and public spaces in Philadelphia, just found out about Smith Playground recently. But already, he’s realized its importance. To him, the combination of a clubhouse, play equipment, big slide and location in Fairmount Park allow for it to be “one of the most diverse (play spaces) in the city of Philadelphia, if not the country.”
Smith Playground honored Barwin with the Ida Newman Magic of Play Award for his work with the Make the World Better Foundation during Wednesday night’s Eighth Annual Party in the Playground. The honor came with a replica trophy of the famous Smith Playground slide.
Barwin has been with the Eagles since 2013. That’s the same year he founded the Make the World Better Foundation. His charity focuses on creating and renovating public spaces for children. Thanks to help from Make the World Better, work has started to revitalize Ralph Brooks Park in Point Breeze.
Smith Playground has undergone changes in the last few years, too. Scott Measley and Paulette Greenwell, who helped sponsor the event, remembered taking their children to Smith around 10 years ago and nearly every piece of equipment was dilapidated. The beloved slide was there, but Measley said it felt like walking through a haunted house to get up to the top of it. And at the bottom there was a patch of concrete instead of the soft pad there is now.
Said Vicky Martelli, “Smith can sometimes feel like a second home to us.”
On Wednesday, a different crowd got to see its progress. The event was adults-only and featured beer, wine and food trucks, as well as a live auction with multitude of items — everything from a weeklong trip to rural France to sports tickets to restaurant gift certificates to a used tandem bicycle.
Barwin, dressed in a button-down and jeans and sporting sunglasses, chatted with partygoers throughout the event. His formal speech was short. He did announce a new project his organization is working on. In South Philly there’s another playground called Smith Playground. The park has fallen on hard times, and he wants to revitalize it.