Family keeping Ed Day's dream alive

GIBSON CITY — As Ed Day and his wife, Lorri, began renovating a building in downtown Gibson City a couple of years ago, they kept having to tell the kids skateboarding on the sidewalk outside to go somewhere else.

They didn’t want to have to do so. It’s just that they didn’t want to see anyone get hurt while they were remodeling.

Besides, it’s also the law. For years, signs posted along Sangamon Avenue’s sidewalks have stated clearly, “No skateboards or bikes.”

But banning skating in one area of town hasn’t addressed the issue. Being constantly shooed away by downtown property owners has caused some skaters to go to the city’s North Park, where they skate on the stage of the park’s pavilion, scuffing it up in the process.

Before he died in May, Mr. Day was working to develop a suitable place in town for kids to skate. Mr. Day had dreams of bringing a skatepark to Gibson City — a dream that his family has kept alive to this day.

“I think he would be excited to know that we’re trying to finish something he was wanting to do,” said Mr. Day’s 43-year-old stepson, Dale Denny of rural Gibson City. “To know we haven’t given up on his hopes, he’d be really proud.”

A nine-member committee was formed this summer following Mr. Day’s death to develop plans for a skatepark that would be named in Mr. Day’s memory. The committee, with all but one of its members being a relative of Mr. Day, met for the first time on Aug. 21 and will meet monthly from now on until the skatepark is built.

“Gibson City really doesn’t have a whole lot for kids these days, and we’ve been seeing a lot of people on bikes and stuff, and we’d really just like to give them a place to go,” Dale Denny said.

Denny, who along with his wife, Billie Jo, are members of the committee, said they realize it may take several years to raise enough funds to build the proposed skatepark, which would be called “Edward Isaac Day’s Memorial Skatepark.” With a price tag ranging from $340,000 to $370,000, the skatepark they want to build, they admitted, costs “a lot of money.”

“The one we’re looking at right now, it’s pretty large, but it’s something that’s going to last forever,” Dale Denny said.

“It’s an all-concrete skatepark, to where there’s less maintenance and it will last longer,” Billie Jo Denny added.

The skatepark would be located where there is currently a grassy field on the west side of Gibson City’s West Park. The skatepark committee has already discussed the proposed location with Mayor Dan Dickey, who is supportive of the project.

“All the aldermen and the mayor, they all know that we need to do something for the kids in this community,” Dale Denny said. “They back us, and they all would love to see it come in and love to see Ed’s dream come true. They know how passionate Ed was — that when Ed saw something, he went for it.”

Mr. Day died May 8, only four days after he was sworn in to a four-year term as a Ward 3 alderman. Mr. Day died unexpectedly after being taken to a hospital emergency room with chest pains. He was 64.

At a celebration of life event held in his honor, Mr. Day’s family collected about $4,900 in donations for the proposed skatepark. Also following his death, the family set up a GoFundMe account, which has raised, to date, about $1,500 for the project.

That brings the fundraising total to about $6,400 — far short of the $340,000-plus needed.

But other fundraisers are in the works, Dale Denny said. At the skatepark committee’s next meeting — at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at City Hall — those fundraisers will be announced to the public.

“Right now, we’re going to start off with just two or three fundraisers, and year after year, it’s going to keep going until we can get this developed,” Dale Denny said.

“This ain’t going to happen overnight — we understand that,” he added. “It’s going to take a lot of effort, and that’s why we’re hoping to get more people involved — people who have maybe got more resources than we do or more ideas. When we announce, with all the other members present, what our ideas are for the fundraisers, we’re hoping it really takes off in the community. ... And we’re hoping that after our next meeting, we’re going to get out and advertise more and get out and speak to the community.”

Billie Jo Denny, who serves as the skatepark committee’s secretary, said the committee would like to have the skatepark project completed within five years.

“But if we get the right fundraising or right sponsors or people who just want to donate, maybe we can get it going sooner,” she said.

The committee has researched various designs for the skatepark, and one of those options — although costlier than others — seems to stand out as the best one, Dale Denny said.

The all-concrete skatepark would have half-pipes, grinding rods, ramps and more. It would even possibly have trees and benches so parents could relax while watching their kids enjoy the skatepark. And the skatepark would be able to be used by not just skateboarders, but also by BMX bikers and rollerbladers.

“We want something that’s going to ‘wow’ you and give options for everybody — from 4 years old on up to adults,” Dale Denny said. “We’ve looked at several different (designs), but we definitely want a park that’s going to last forever and ‘wow’ the community, because that’s what Ed wanted to do. Ed wouldn’t have wanted us to pick something small ... so all of us on the committee are doing everything we can to make it happen.”

Dale Denny said he hopes the skatepark can become an attraction not just for Gibson City residents, but folks from other towns in the area.

“We’re hoping that, with this being BMX-, skateboard-, everything-friendly, it will bring more people to the community,” Dale Denny said. “We want something that’s going to bring people from Bloomington, Champaign. We want to have the better park to bring people to Gibson City.

“And we want it large enough to where we can hold skating events and bring people in from out of town for competitions and bring revenue into the community.”

The proposed skatepark’s design is just an option, not a final decision, Dale Denny stressed. He said that the committee is looking for more input from the public, and the design could be changed depending on feedback. He said the public is welcome to attend the committee’s monthly meetings, which are held at 7 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at City Hall, or even join the committee. The committee would like more members, he noted.

The committee will be staffing a booth at this weekend’s Harvest Fest to collect some community feedback. The committee will ask members of the public to fill out surveys regarding the “pros and cons” of a skatepark and possibly present pictures of what the skatepark could one day look like.

The Dennys hope the community will support the skatepark idea.

“I know not everybody likes a skatepark, but the kids have to have something to do,” Billie Jo Denny said. “I mean, the kids are our future.”

“Every other small community has one, so there’s no reason Gibson can’t,” Dale Denny said.

Anyone who wants to donate to the skatepark fundraising effort can do so via the skatepark’s GoFundMe page.

The City of Gibson is also accepting donations for the skatepark. Checks can be made to the City of Gibson and mailed to P.O. Box 545, Gibson City, IL 60936. Donors are asked to write “Ed’s Skatepark” in the memo line.

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