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Playground to honor special girl

A very special playground for disabled children and their families could be coming to Woodbury.

That is the hope of a tireless group of fundraisers, who are working to achieve their dream in the memory of a little girl who touched the lives of many.

Dana Millington, who lives on Crestmoor Drive in Woodbury, is working with husband Dave, friends and volunteers to make "Madison's Place," an inclusive playground project, become a reality.

The inspiration for the project comes from the memory of Madison Claire, Millington's daughter, who died in 2004 at the age of two after living with spinal muscular atrophy since the age of six months.

"We had a child who died from spinal muscular atrophy," said Millington. "Through the daily living that we had, there was no normalcy and she couldn't do anything, and in turn, we couldn't do anything. We really faced the difficulty that many parents have.

"After she died, we knew we wanted to do something that would help the day-to-day living for these children."

The idea of the inclusive playground is that it is accessible to all, with ramps making even the highest levels of equipment open to those with disabilities, wheelchair-friendly surfacing and transparent parts to climbing frames to allow deaf children or their parents to see one another.

The first big event to kick off the fundraising drive for the playground is the American Idol Season Finale Dinner and Benefit, which will be held at Prestwick Golf Club on May 21.

The Madison Claire Foundation, the non-profit set up by the Millingtons in memory of their daughter, hopes the evening will raise $30,000, the first step towards the $350,000 total cost of the playground.

As well as dinner -- and, of course, the viewing of American Idol -- a silent auction, kids karaoke, kids buffet, kids goodie bags and games will also be available.

"It ties in with the playground," explained Millington. "The playground will be for kids so we thought the event should be for kids, too. We just wanted to keep the whole family involved."

Millington is currently working with the parks and recreation department at Woodbury City Council on a potential location for the playground.

In the meantime, however, all efforts will be devoted to ensuring May 21 goes with a swing -- and keeping the memory of Madison alive.

"She was an amazing little girl," said Millington. "It was a long, hard two years. She brought wonderful people into our lives that we never would have met.

"She struggled every day, but smiled through it all."

Tickets to the American Idol dinner and benefit on Wednesday, May 21 at 5:30 p.m cost $125 per family. For tickets or to sponsor the event or donate a prize, call (651) 739-9013 or visit for more information.