Belleair Special Events Director Sara Borger, left, and Pat Ryan, stand with the Moms Love Belleair Rec banner outside the Dimmitt Community Center. Anyone wanting to participate in the program can contact the Belleair Parks and Recreation Department.
BELLEAIR – Year after year Belleair resident Pat Ryan watched her children take part in programs at the Dimmitt Community Center and participate in any number of activities conducted by the Belleair Recreation staff.
She watched as occasionally some programs were shunted aside for lack of money. So, Ryan decided to do something about it and a year ago was instrumental in forming the group Moms Love Belleair Rec.
It has become, in its second year, something Parks and Recreation Director Eric Wahlbeck calls essential to the needs of his department.
In the beginning Ryan called friends and acquaintances and hatched the plan. If they would all donate a set amount of money, in this case $200, they could make a difference.
“I modeled it after a program that was already in place at Morton Plant Hospital,” said Ryan. “I knew there were plenty of moms just as appreciative as I was, and while we didn’t have time to dig in and help, we could contribute.”
Twenty-five mothers participated and last year supported the Belleair Sunset 5K run. This year more than 30 moms are involved and they have pledged $5,000 to go toward the new playground and another $1,000 for new equipment for the game room at the community center. Those are numbers Wahlbeck considers significant.
“That’s a lot of money,” he said. “We really need people like them to help us. In these tight budgetary times we can’t get all that we need from the town so we have to fund raise and they are an essential part of that.”
Each year the moms get together at a breakfast meeting and invite Wahlbeck and his staff to tell them what the needs are. They get the priority list then each contributor gets to vote on which project to support. This year it is the playground and the game room. Wahlbeck says when the new playground is completed a section of it will be dedicated to the moms.
There is more to the moms organization than just giving money, according to Ryan.
“We use it as a launching point for education,” she said. “Recently we heard all about the town’s parks from Parks Director Ricky Allison. Then we all piled into a van and drove around town looking at those parks and seeing what might be needed. Who knew there were more than a dozen parks in Belleair?”
Ryan said participating in Moms Love Belleair Rec is more than just writing a check.
“It is a way to get to know the staff and the programs better. It is an alternative for moms who want to give back,” she said.
Ryan says there is no limit to the number of moms who might want to participate in the organization.
“At Morton Plant they started with 25 people, just like we did, and now they have over a thousand. We are always interested in anyone who wants to participate.”
There is no end in sight for the program, according to Ryan. She and her group intend to keep it going as long as anyone is interested. That is good news to Wahlbeck and his staff.
“They are among the top consistent group of donors,” he said.
He undoubtedly agrees with Ryan who says, “This is a win-win for everyone.”