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Chloe, We Got Your Back

Standard Examiner Article
by Bryon Saxton

Five-year-old Chloe Bennett, wearing a bright dress and brighter smile, beamed as she sat in her wheelchair at the Davis County Commission meeting. She waited for her doting father, Oby Bennett, who stood at her side, to be presented with a check.

"Chloe, we got your back," Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs said, as Syracuse city leaders and county officials on Tuesday huddled around the Bennett family to make the check-passing official. The check, for $42,046.20, is to be used to help develop Chloe's Sunshine Park at 1979 S. 1900 West, Syracuse. The 5-acre park is to be specifically designed for disabled children and enjoyed by children of all abilities. The check presented to the Bennetts represents the proceeds from the Davis County Gala and silent auction held Sept. 6 at Davis Conference Center. Oby Bennett said he is grateful for all the work Syracuse city officials and the county have done in moving the park project forward. The check awarded on Tuesday puts officials "one step closer to having the park done," Bennett said. About four years ago, Tara Bennett, Chloe's mother, approached Syracuse leaders requesting that they consider building a park where disabled children can play. "It's been a long process, but it is starting to come about," said Bonnie Mann, Chloe's grandmother. Each year, county officials select a charity to receive the proceeds from its annual Davis County Gala and silent auction event. This year, attendees at the gala enjoyed entertainment by the African Children's Choir as part of a program emceed by singer Alex Boye.

They were also treated to intense jungle-theme decorations and a meal. Prior to the event, the county had indicated it was hoping to raise from the gala about $35,000 for the park.

A WiLd Night!

I didn't think I could feel more humble over the fact that the Davis County gala proceeds were going to go to the playground. It was such a beautiful event filled with beautiful, giving people. I was so honored and just overflowing with gratitude. Chloe thought it was pure magic and just loved being the center of attention of such a special night. I couldn't possibly put it all into words, so here it is in pictures...

They didn't miss a mark. Every square inch inside and out invited the WILD spirit of the night in honor of the amazingly talented African Children's Choir who entertained us all... it was jungle/safari theme everywhere you looked and I was just in AWE!!!

The Davis County Conference Center was FILLED to the brim with people who were there with open hearts and open wallets to support our project. I can't even put into words how much it meant to me! To know that people are so kind and believe in the playground as much as I do.... nothing could mean more than to be supported and have people believe in your vision. The silent auction literally blew me away. It was a giant room FILLED with extravagant donations from exercise equipment to tires to decorations to shoes, jewelry, furniture.... exquisite items.... all DONATED and SOLD for our cause. It. Was. Amazing.

Chloe was the belle of the ball... everyone in attendance knew who she was and came up to meet the famous little Chloe! There had been a commercial promoting the event for a week or so before on channel 5 so her cute little face was well-known. And boy, did she love the attention! She wasn't the only beauty in attendance, though. City and County beauty queens were there too. Chloe was honored when they wanted their picture with her!!! Don't let her face fool you in this pic, she was just lovin' being one of the pretty girls!

I'm pretty sure my jaw literally dropped when I walked into the event room. It was breath taking! This picture doesn't even do it justice. There was this green light effect that just blew me away that this picture doesn't do a good job of capturing and they even had jungle sound effects to further set the tone. It was beautiful. Beautiful!

Chloe just loved during dinner when they had a drum group playing. She was squealing up a storm. If she hadn't already been the center of attention, she would have been then. What a ham!

I was SO thrilled that The African Children's Choir was going to be the entertainment. I had seen them perform a few years ago and knew just how special they were. But they exceeded my expectations! Their energy was so contagious and their big, happy spirits just filled up the entire room with this feeling of appreciation for all of our differences and the reminder that anything is possible. I don't know if that even makes a bit of sense, but seriously, these kids taught me something just with their big smiles. It was really, really special.

I am disappointed that I haven't found the right words to express my gratitude and just astonishment at the night and the gift of my community to believe in this dream and support it in such a MAGNIFICENT and SPECIAL way. I am just grateful beyond words. Thank you, Davis County. Thank you, Syracuse city. It is a privilege and honor.

(For lots more amazing photos of this night, head here!)

Davis County Gala Will Support Chloe's Sunshine Playground

By Bryon Saxton of The Standard Examiner 4/24/12

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

Thank You, Davis County Commission!

By Bryon Saxton of The Standard Examiner 5/22/12

Donations continue to roll in for a $1 million Syracuse park designed to provide unlimited play for special needs children.

The latest is $75,000 from the Davis County Commission. The contribution, approved by the commission Tuesday, will come from funds the county receives as part of its Community Development Block Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Earth work on the park, known as Chloe's Sunshine Playground in Centennial Park, is slated to begin this fall, officials say.

The county providing CDBG funds toward developing the park is part of a "great partnership" between the county and Syracuse city, Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs said.

The CDBG money the commission committed to the 5-acre park at 1979 S. 1900 West is in addition to the funds the county will generate for the project through its annual gala.

All proceeds from the annual black-tie affair, to be held Sept. 6 at the Davis Conference Center in Layton, will go toward developing the park.

County officials hope, based on previous galas, that the event will raise $35,000 to $40,000 for the park.
The county received $673,483 from the federal government to support community development and produce more affordable housing. The county has allocated those funds to nine organizations, with the Syracuse park receiving one of the larger contributions.

"This particular park is one of a kind," Davis County Commissioner Bret Millburn said of the project, which is drawing support community-wide.

Nearly $200,000 in grants and private donations have already been raised for the park, including a $75,000 donation from Zions Bank and a $5,000 contribution from Layton entrepreneur Haven J. Barlow, said Syracuse Mayor Jamie Nagle.

The park project may have to be done in phases, Nagle said, because of the development costs. The park is billed by officials as meeting the state's strict criteria for being its first unlimited play park, meaning it is accessible to all children including those with special needs.

"We're confident will we have the first phase (of the park) done by the first of next year," Nagle said.
"I think every partnership is critical, and the county has just supported us, knowing this is not only a draw for the city, but for the county."

Construction should begin in the fall, Nagle said, and will bring in many people from outside the area.
"It is such a positive thing. I feel like the momentum is there," she said.

The park is inspired by Syracuse mother Tara Bennett and her 5-year-old daughter, Chloe, who has special needs.