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Playgrounds and recreation courts reopen

While many kids were out on the playgrounds and courts, his premature status as a baby kept Jack Spinello homebound on his first birthday.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

With the playing fields and recreational playgrounds of Westwood opening this weekend, the question arose as to who would actually be willing to go outside and use them.

Interestingly, the answer to that question found two unique and extremely different groups: college athletes and kids.

At Morrison Field, a couple of kids were sitting in the dugouts away from the sun, and a pair of young men were playing basketball. With one rebounding and one shooting, the shooter hit about four straight, very deep threes. Considering gyms have been closed for months, this level of shooting skill was surprising, to say the least. It wasn’t surprising to learn, after talking to him, that he was not an average Joe killing time on a Saturday by shooting around. He was Juran Ligonde, a former Dedham High School Basketball star and current division two player at Goldey-Beacom College.  

Former Tri-Valley League star Juran Ligonde keeps his skills sharp on the newly opened basketball courts.

At the playground on School Street, rain kept most families away on Saturday. But on Sunday, throngs of families came out to spend time with their kids outside. Dan Heyman was there with his two children, because he believes it to be the best playground in Westwood, a belief recently backed up by a Boston Mom’s Blog.

“This is the best playground in all of Westwood. It’s got a very shady swing area, a lot of different things for young kids and older kids, and the parents can convene around the tables and take it easy.”

As for what he has been doing with his kids without the playground, Heyman’s answers ranged from the mundane to the bizarre.

“We’ve done a lot of scooter and bike ridings, we’ve got a bounce house in our backyard, we’ve done a lot of frog catching, and some turkey watching.” Heyman pointed to his oldest son, “A turkey attacked this guy once.”

Dan Heyman poses with his sons (the older one is the turkey attack victim/survivor) at the School Street Playground, which he considers the best in Westwood.

While he left before I could enquire further about the details of the attack, it’s a good thing that Heyman is such a fan of the School Street Playground. Because while the Westwood town website claims playgrounds are open, the June Street Playground appears closed, with traffic cones and a sign about COVID blocking the entrance.

Cones blocking the entrance and a sign declaring playgrounds closed due to Covid leave the playground off of June Street unavailable, despite what the town website claims.

But if the sight of people playing basketball and crowded playgrounds full of kids made you forget about the coronavirus for a second, driving past the School Street Playground quickly reminded you we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. Just a few houses from the playground, a woman was standing in front of a giant poster of a baby with tubes coming out of his nose that read “Happy Birthday, Jack.”

This was the drive-by, one-year birthday party of Jack Spinello, a baby born premature a year ago. Noting that her family “can’t really go anywhere or do anything because he’s so vulnerable,” Sarah Spinello said explained: “We are celebrating our son’s first birthday party on July 1, and because of the pandemic, we are changing it up and doing a special drive-by birthday party. Jack was born last July at 29 weeks, and weighed one pound nine ounces, so he’s a little miracle baby. We wanted to put on a big first birthday for him, but couldn’t. The theme is 'Oh the Places You’ll Go,' which is a book his NICU nurses gave him.”

There’s a sad irony in Jack’s homebound status and the book his NICU nurses gave him a year ago. But as we return to dining at bars and restaurants, going to playgrounds with our children, and playing basketball with friends, every once in a while, we should remind ourselves there are still plenty of people in Westwood who can’t.

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