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HomeNewsLocal newsThe Linda Garvin Affect takes Effect: “Let The Children Play!”

The Linda Garvin Affect takes Effect: “Let The Children Play!”

St. Croix’s Midre Cummings Playground in all its splendor. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

Over two months have passed since the Linda Garvin Bench Dedication in the Midre Cummings Playground in Frederiksted, and the community is still feeling the positive effects of the woman who got folks started at the very beginning of the project. Garvin planted a seed in the hearts and minds of her community and her legacy continues to grow and bloom.

Her mantra is the language one speaks, the sounds one hears, the sights one sees: “Let The Children Play!”

Sign language at the park entrance invites children to communicate and play with each other. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

The sprinkling of rain did not dampen the spirits of the community members who waited patiently for the playground to open. It was the morning of Saturday, April 27… Bench Dedication Day. Home Depot employees were on the spot, working to ensure the bench was solid in its permanency.

A welcoming Moko Jumbie at the entrance of the Midre Cummings Playground. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

Ted Bedwell took the mic and later passed it to Chris Henderson, both owners of Sandcastle on the Beach Hotel, and both friends of Garvin. Their thoughts and words were similar.

“Linda was the most gracious and caring person one would ever meet. She always put everyone first and her community first,” Bedwell said.

“When people come and sit on this beautiful bench, I hope they take a moment to leave life’s problems behind and enjoy the laughter and the celebration the children will be having as they’re taking advantage of this beautiful property,” Bedwell added.

The playground includes a climbing wall and tree house. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

Henderson invited the group, “Please come and sit and relax and see the beauty and the elegance and enjoy the future lives it’s embracing in the children of this community.”

“This bench and this park is what we felt was appropriate for what Linda stood for…community support and friendship support. She embodied that word…support,” Henderson said. 

Garvin’s former high school theater students, Betsy Marsala and Anthony Jackson, played a major role in the bench dedication.

Anthony Jackson, Betsy Marsala, and Bill Boyton with community members. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

Marsala spoke about creating a physical manifestation “of what Linda left in all of us.” There was the bench dedication in the lobby of the Fine Arts Theater Department in Cave Creek, Arizona to serve as a reminder of Linda’s dedication to the theater and to the students. 

“Of all of the community projects she was involved in all of her life, this is the one that filled her with the most pride. It was visible … the choked-up feeling of the deep joy Linda felt when she saw children playing with their parents here at the playground,“ Marsala shared.

Damion Sanders took a breather from grocery shopping at the request of his children, five-year-old Hanako at left and seven-year-old Hiro at right. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)
Damion Sanders teaches his five-year-old Hanako to play “Old MacDonald Had A Farm” on the xylophone. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

“The impact Ms. Garvin had on everyone was the underlying factor. It took a community to build this park. We wanted the bench dedication to be true to that with 90 individual donations — a far-reaching support from so many people she had known throughout her life,” Jackson spoke to the kindred crowd.

Midre Cummings Playground with donors names printed on the fence. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

“Ms. Garvin shared the importance of play, support and authenticity. I’m looking at this bench and I can’t help but see those things in this bench. Like Chris said, ‘A bench is literally providing support. You can sit on it.’ It’s authentically a part of the community, which was so important to Linda, and it’s in a playground. I’m so grateful for everyone coming out and for all the support. What a wonderful event,” Jackson continued.

Garvin’s stepdaughter Joy Gradin said she searched for what she finally came up with: The Linda Affect. “She affected so many things – let’s go to the library, to the museum, the beach, let’s go to the Botanical Gardens, or a Matter of Balance.” She had this ability to affect, Gradin mused.

Seated: Chris Richardson, Claire Roker, and Ted Bedwell. Standing are Betsy Marsala, Bill Boyton, Anthony Jackson, and Joy Gradin (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

“It was an invitation. She invited you to join her. Sometimes she coerced you with cooking. ‘You’re here now. You can do this.’ She was planting seeds. She would invite you in and feed you a cookie or share water with you. She would have you volunteering for things. She would give you the seed of something you had no idea of or would be thinking about. But she planted it, hoping that it was something that would grow. She would have a conversation with you. You could tell her about something you might be frustrated about and she would give you that spark. She would say, ‘I believe in you. I believe you can do it,’” Gradin shared with the crowd.

A walking bridge to the playground and metal monkey bars. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

“Everyone of us here is a beneficiary of her affect. I am, oh man! I got a lot more of her than any of you. She never saw it broken. She saw something beautiful and her affect took effect,” Gradin said. 

Gradin invited the group to walk away with three things:

  1. Let the children play.
  2. Let the seed grow.
  3. Let the spark ignite. 

That’s how we will honor Linda — a reminder of what we have here, she said. 

Linda’s husband, Bill Boyton, told the crowd, “First of all, I want to thank all of you. I love that you’re here. This is happening because of you.” 

Boyton thanked two former students [Marley and Jackson]. He spoke of them as just more children as he referenced his life working and living with Garvin. 

“We would get a group of awkward students, then they would graduate and move on. The process always produced the best of that spark and that seed. Then it was following college, getting a job, relocating to New York City, going to Chicago, or working in Center City, or in California doing directing or lighting, and suddenly … the family I had of just two children was then a family of 50 children. They were a better deal because they came with less expenses,” he said to a laughing crowd.

“I have all these kids who are now my family. When these two [Marley and Jackson] decided to take on this project, I said, go for it. It’s a feeling of community pulling together. This is a delightful time for me,” Boyton said.

At the close of the event, the Source caught up with Sports, Parks, & Recreation employee Carita Stevens Gumbs. She is the Youth Community coordinator supervisor of the Midre Cummings Playground and spoke affectionately about Garvin.

Carita Steven’s Gumbs, SPAR Youth Community coordinator and supervisor of the Midre Cummings Playground. (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

“Ms. Garvin was just so loving and sweet. We all knew how much she loved the children and we were saddened with the news of her passing. The community and the department are blessed with the bench and the playground. Her legacy will continue.”

“Let the Children Play!” (Source photo by Elisa McKay)

“Let The Children Play!”

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