Lehews donation for Ellie G's

Marilyn and Calvin LeHew (center) with board members from Friends of Franklin Parks

Fundraising for the Ellie G’s Dream World inclusive park in Franklin received a significant donation Friday toward a goal of raising $1.5 million.

As announced by Friends of Franklin Parks through its Facebook page, longtime Williamson County residents and community leaders Marilyn and Calvin Lehew donated $100,000 toward the effort. The campaign, a public-private endeavor between the city of Franklin Parks department and Friends of Franklin Parks, has now raised $313,000 toward what will be Franklin’s first inclusive park.

“What an amazing gift this is for the park, and we so appreciate what the Lehews mean to our community,” Torrey Barnhill, executive director for Friends of Franklin Parks. “This donation brings more awareness to this campaign.”

Fundraising officially got underway in February as city of Franklin officials, board members and others from the community attended a kick-off. The plan is for the city to match what individuals and organizations give and, therefore, provide the $3 million needed to build the park that will sit on 3 acres of the planned Southeast Municipal Complex located on Carothers Parkway in east Franklin.

The park’s name is in memory of Elliot Grace (“Ellie G”) Castro, daughter of Franklin residents Samantha and Brandon Castro and granddaughter of Alderman Brandy Blanton. Ellie G was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder related to dwarfism known as rhizomelic chondrodysplasia punctata (RCDP). Her life expectancy was less than a year, but she lived to the age of 4 before dying in September 2019 and leaving a lasting legacy.

To donate, text the word “Inclusive” to 615-551-4465 or email [email protected] for sponsorship opportunities.

For more information or to stay up to date on the playground’s progress, follow the campaign using #ChangeTheWayWePlay or follow @friendsoffranklinparks on social media.