“Why does it look so easy, when it’s really not?”
That remark from Ariel Collins, 8, while she struggled to make it through a wheelchair obstacle course on AHA! night in July, immediately summed up the message that New Bedford Disability Commission members had hoped to share that evening – that people with disabilities face mobility challenges that can be as tricky to navigate as the course’s little orange cones were for Collins.
Luckily, Collins, a Dartmouth resident, was more than ready for the challenge.
“I’m doing it again,” she told commission members as she finished the course. “It’s actually really fun.”
While Collins slowly made her way through the Purchase Street course, former City Councilor George Smith zipped through it easily in his motorized wheelchair.
Recently diagnosed with ALS, Smith was the reason the commission was at the July AHA! Kids Rule event and why the commission and other supporters were all dressed in vibrant blue t-shirts reading Team George. He brought people together to spread awareness for disabilities and raise funds to replace a vandalized slide at the Buttonwood Park Accessible Playground.
Team George and the city Disability Commission is looking to raise $10,000 to purchase a new slide for the playground and is selling Team George t-shirts at $15 each to do so.
Smith chose the playground as a recipient of funds because he had been a part of its creation while on the City Council. Planning for the playground began as early as 1999.
Not new to community service, Smith has spent decades contributing to local communities and inspiring others to do the same. In 2020, he was awarded the AARP Massachusetts Andrus Award for Community Service, the association’s most prestigious and visible state volunteer award. He serves on Coastline Elderly Services and the New Bedford Council on Aging boards and is a volunteer for Mass Senior Action Council.
To support the playground and get a Team George t-shirt, call Disability Commission members: John Lobo at 508-989-0330; Rev. Pam Cole at 774-328-1490; or Kim Bettencourt at 508-789-6380.