Special park set to spring surprise in Corrimal

Rita Rapley, holding her son Luke, was named 2014 Corrimal citizen of the year along with her husband Sean. Picture: GREG ELLIS
Rita Rapley, holding her son Luke, was named 2014 Corrimal citizen of the year along with her husband Sean. Picture: GREG ELLIS

When more than 50,000 people descend on Corrimal this Sunday for the biggest one day festival of its type in NSW it will be an extra special day for one family.

A year ago Rita and Sean Rapley were surprised during the event when they were jointly named Corrimal citizen of the year.

This Sunday Mrs Rapley is looking forward to seeing who is going to be acknowledged for their contribution to the community.

The nominees are Stephanie Privett-Nelson, a primary school teacher for 29 years, and Valerie Hussain, who has served on many committees for various community and environmental causes.

"It is great someone gets recognised in the community each year because everyone works so well together here," Mrs Rapley said.

She is the mother of Luke Rapley who has a children's playground in Corrimal Memorial Park named after him.

He has autism and multiple disabilities and is expected to enjoy the range of activities that will be available during Spring Into Corrimal.

This Sunday Luke's Place, which was officially opened leading into the 2014 Spring Into Corrimal, will be at the centre of a hive of activity stretching over more than three blocks.

Not far from the playground will be a stage with entertainment running through most of the day and many food stalls.

But the whole suburb will be bursting with fun and energy, according to Corrimal Chamber of Commerce president Paul Boultwood.

Mrs Rapley said this Sunday would be a bit like an anniversary for she and her husband who were blown away with how the community came together last year for the festival and the project they were both involved with.

"Together with Touched by Olivia Foundation, Wollongong City Council and Corrimal Chamber of Commerce we built this inclusive play space and we were lucky enough for the council to name it after my son," she said.

"It is a big honour and it is thanks to the community. This is a community space. It does not matter what disability you have it is a community park that brings everyone together," Mrs Rapley said.

"The park helps because it provides a range of activities and we know he is in a safe environment. And it is a place Luke makes new friends."

The play space came about after Mr Rapley approached Touched by Olivia Foundation when he heard how they build parks with inclusive play spaces.

He then approached the council about finding an area the appropriate size.

Luke's Place includes a wheelchair-friendly carousel and a water-play area for children with autism or other cognitive disorders. Spring Into Corrimal starts at 9am on Sunday and runs to 4pm.