Colts Neck Lions Club Receives Grant for Sensory Playground

February 5, 2018
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Members of the Colts Neck Lions Club gathered at their annual Kentucky Derby fundraiser. Photo courtesy Colts Neck Lions Club

By Jennifer Driscoll |

COLTS NECK – The Colts Neck Lions Club has received a $35,000 grant from the Joy in Childhood Foundation to fund the construction of the Lions Sensory Den, a playground for children with visual impairments.

Formed in 1969, the Colts Neck Lions Club is par t of Lions Clubs International, a global service club organization with 1.35 million members. The group conducts service projects in and around Colts Neck and Monmouth County and fundraises for various humanitarian causes.

The Lions Sensory Den is one of the club’s largest projects to date. The new playground will be an extension to the existing Challenger playground at Dorbrook Park. Many of the playground’s features will involve senses other than vision, such as musical instruments like drums, bells, and xylophones, as well as misting columns.

So far the Lions have raised $80,000 of their $125,000 goal. The Joy in Childhood Foundation, formerly known as The Dunkin’ Donuts & Baskin-Robbins Community Foundation, raises funds for nonprofit organizations with the goal of providing “moments of joy” for children in difficult circumstances. The $35,000 grant was presented to the Lions Club during their monthly meeting at Huddy’s Inn, Monday, Jan. 8.

Lions Clubs International has a history of service helping the blind and visually impaired. Justin Lotano, the president of the Colts Neck Lions Club, said his wife, Christina Lotano, inspired the idea for the sensory playground.

“We were looking for a larger scale project than had been done in previous years,” said Lotano. “My wife suggested we look into playgrounds that exist for children who are visually impaired.”

A Fair Day for Highlands

After researching playgrounds in the region, the group found that the closest playground designed for the visually impaired is located in Jersey City, at St. Joseph’s School for the Blind. After meeting with the director of communications at St. Joseph’s, Lotano decided the club should build their own specialized playground in Monmouth County.

Although the playground is specifically designed for children with disabilities, Lotano said the playground can be enjoyed by all children and will promote socialization between children of all abilities.

The Colts Neck Lions Club engages in other service activities in addition to the Lions Sensory Den. The organization also participates in road cleanups, collects eyeglasses to be recycled, and conducts eye scans in Colts Neck schools to identify vision defects in children early on.

Lotano said he has greatly appreciated his experience in the Lions Club since joining five years ago.

“It’s just something I enjoy doing; I enjoy helping people in the community, I enjoy leading the group,” he said. “Our motto is ‘We Serve’ so wherever there’s a need, there’s a Lion.”

Donations towards the Lions Sensor y Den can be made at coltsnecklionsclub.us.


This article was first published in the Jan. 18-25, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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