EBENSBURG - Dana Danchanko had to ask volunteers multiple times to put down their shovels and take a break from construction Thursday morning.
Despite the early morning heat, a group of about 30 volunteers were out digging holes and helping to assemble swings and other playground equipment for a new playground being built in memory of Dana and Eric Danchanko's daughter, Autumn Lynn.
"I'm nervous," Dana Danchanko said. "I want everything to go well. And I'm happy. I can't wait for it to go up."
Video from building of playground honoring couple's daughter
After a tragic accident claimed their 2-year-old daughter's life last October, the Danchankos channeled their grief into the Autumn's Angels Foundation to create playgrounds and parks for children and families to enjoy.
Volunteers began construction on the group's first playground at Lions Field in Ebensburg on Thursday.
"It's a lot more work than we anticipated," said Eric Danchanko with a laugh as he wiped the sweat from his brow.
The park features play areas for children of all ages, Dana Danchanko said. A spinning feature called the "Supernova," an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant swing, a climbing structure and other play features are part of the playground adjacent to the baseball field.
While the park will soon be filled with laughter after construction is completed this weekend, the Danchankos, who also have an 8-year-old son, Daric, wanted to create a place for families to enjoy but also provide comfort and support for those who have lost loved ones.
"We will grieve for eternity," Dana Danchanko said of their daughter's passing. "This is the toughest and most incomprehensible incident of anyone's life."
Through various fundraisers, the foundation managed to raise about $32,000 for the playground installation in Autumn's memory, Eric Danchanko said.
"The generosity of the community, people I barely know showing up for a good cause," Eric Danchanko said. "It's their money, their donations and their generosity that built this."
About 99 percent of the proceeds raised by the group were used in the park effort, Eric Danchanko said. The park was donated to Ebensburg Borough, which will insure and maintain the play area.
The Lions Field playground is the first of many such projects, Eric Danchanko said. The couple envision creating multiple parks and areas of beatification in the future.
For their first project, the Danchankos selected Kompan Inc. to create the park, Eric Danchanko said. But company officials didn't just ship over slides and a jungle gym - designers asked the family which playground features Autumn enjoyed and tried to incorporate those structures into the design, Eric Danchanko said.
"It's a very good cause," said Scott Fye of Cherry Tree.
Fye, who was digging holes for a swing set, paused to examine the work being done by fellow volunteers at the park. A father of a 9-year-old girl, Fye said it was great that the Danchanko family decided to honor Autumn by creating the park for other children to enjoy.
"It's nice, the kids can have something to do," Fye said. "It's a great thing."
Previously, children with brothers and sisters who played baseball at the park had nothing to do during their siblings' games, Dana Danchanko said.
Now, the park will have swings and a variety of different play features unique to the area, she said.
"There's no playgrounds around here like it," she said.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.