A “wild” jungle theme is in place for this year’s annual Davis County Gala, and it’s expected that proceeds from the event will go a long way toward the development of Utah’s first fully accessible “unlimited play park” for children with special needs.
The annual black-tie affair, to be held the evening of Sept. 6 at the Davis Conference Center in Layton, will feature the African Children’s Choir, with all proceeds going to Chloe’s Sunshine Playground in Centennial Park in Syracuse.
The 5-acre park, to be developed around 1979 S. 1900 West, behind the Syracuse police station, is being billed by officials as meeting the state’s strict criteria for being its first unlimited play park.
The park is inspired by Syracuse mother Tara Bennett and her 5-year-old daughter, Chloe, who has special needs.
Based on the past success of the gala, the goal is to generate $35,000 to $40,000 toward developing the park, Davis County Commissioner John Petroff Jr. said.
The cost to attend the gala is $125 per person. Various sponsorship packages also are available.
The African Children’s Choir, in traditional dress, will sing and dance to spiritual renditions of inspirational songs, Davis Conference Center Director of Operations Dave Hilliard said.
The choir represents countries throughout Africa and is made up of children from 7 to 11 years old, he said. “(The choir has) traveled the world, been featured on the largest awards shows, and sang with industry stars such as Josh Groban.”
Davis County Gala Chairwoman Valerie Davis said having the gala contribute to the park project is “an incredible opportunity” for the community, because the park will be a first for Northern Utah.
“This park will be a destination for families with special-needs children that deserve a safe place to play just like any child,” Davis said.
Syracuse officials are also ecstatic that the county has selected the park as a gala recipient.
“What better thing can a community do than to come together for its children,” Syracuse Mayor Jamie Nagle said.
Nearly $200,000 in grants and private donations has already been raised for the park, including a $75,000 donation from Zions Banks and a $5,000 contribution from Layton entrepreneur and former state Sen. Haven J. Barlow.
But Nagle said having the project listed as a gala recipient is a major boon for the park, which is expected to feature a music garden and universally accessible playground equipment.
“If you’re a parent with a disabled child, there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do so that (your children) are not encumbered,” Nagle said.
Because of the $1 million cost involved with developing the park, Nagle said, it is likely the project may have to be completed in two different phases, with the hope of being able to break ground on the first phase this fall.
“This really is about a community coming together,” Nagle said.
“The purpose of the gala is to first, celebrate Davis County and the Davis Conference Center; second, to entertain, bringing top-notch performers to Davis County; and third, to give back by selecting a worthy cause to support,” Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs said.
She added that, based on what the park will offer special-needs children, it is likely families from outside the county will also benefit from the park.
For more information and for tickets contact Davis County Community & Economic Development at 801-451-3286 or Neka@daviscountyutah.gov