Perched on playground equipment at the Tod Horton On Deck Playground are, from left, seated, De Ann Horton; her daughter Hailey Daniels holding her youngest daughter, Mallie; and Kray Horton, holding Kinzie Daniels. Dustin Daniels, Hailey’s husband, is standing in back. Not pictured is De Ann’s oldest daughter, Whitney. (Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News)

Perched on playground equipment at the Tod Horton On Deck Playground are, from left, seated, De Ann Horton; her daughter Hailey Daniels holding her youngest daughter, Mallie; and Kray Horton, holding Kinzie Daniels. Dustin Daniels, Hailey’s husband, is standing in back. Not pictured is De Ann’s oldest daughter, Whitney. (Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News)

Toddlers’ playground in Forks built in memory of teen’s father

FORKS — A girl’s dream of honoring her late father opened its gates last week after the Tod Horton On Deck Playground project was adopted by the community and quickly brought into being.

The playground built in the West End Youth League’s Duncan Field for 2-to-5-year-olds filled almost as soon as Kray Horton, now 14, cut the ribbon Thursday evening, said her mother, De Ann Horton.

“It was amazing. They were so excited,” De Ann said Friday. “Those little kids could not wait to get in there last night,” and were happily engaged while league games were in play.

Kray’s idea, taken from a facility she saw while on a traveling Little League baseball trip to California when she was 9, was to create a place where children too young to play ball — those waiting on deck, as it were — could amuse themselves safely while their siblings competed in games.

The playground is covered in netting to protect toddlers from flying balls. The equipment is rooted in rubber mulch to cushion falls. And the placement is near the ball fields.

“Parents can watch both the kids’ games and the toddlers and know they are safe,” De Ann said.

Kray, who shared a love of baseball with her father, wanted to dedicate the playground to him.

Todd Horton, a tree feller, died while pursuing his occupation at the age of 47 in October 2010, when Kray was 7, her mother said.

Mother and daughter began fundraising last June after talking about the concept for years.

“We decided, let’s go for it,” De Ann said. “Let’s make sure this happens before the kids start playing next year.”

The first step was to run the idea past Ed Duncan, whose family had donated the land for youth games in memory of Virginia Duncan.

“He and his family gave Kray their blessing and loved the idea,” De Ann said.

The West End Youth League board approved the idea unanimously and Lonnie Rigby contributed the name of On Deck.

The first fundraiser was a bake sale during June’s annual baseball tournament put on by Dan Tricky in memory of Tod Horton, who had served as West End Youth League president and coached high school girls basketball, T-ball, fast pitch, youth basketball and served on the Demolition Derby committee.

The two-day bake sale grossed $1,200.

That was followed by a Fourth of July gift basket raffle fundraiser that brought in more than $4,000, De Ann said.

In August, Kray and her sister Whitney, mailed a letter requesting donations to business owners in Clallam and Grays Harbor counties who had known Todd Horton. That generated another $11,000.

The First Federal Foundation provided $25,000 and the Allen Foundation, formed after the mill closed in July 2015, contributed money to fund installation of equipment, De Ann said.

Myriad donations came in, including $400 from Parker Browning’s senior project and many others. Total donations received in the first four months of fundraising reaped $50,000.

By Thursday, donations had reached more than $60,000.

Others provided services. Scott Baysinger and his crew did the dirt work, the cement, fencing and netting and helped with the rubber mulch, De Ann said, adding that he was “my support system, my sounding board, my advisor and my right hand.”

Jerry Leppell and his crew helped unload equipment in the snow and seven 2,000 bags of rubber mulch.

LuLaRoe owners Tabatha Gaydeski and Sarah Fletcher held a fundraiser. M&P Garage Doors donated 25 percent of their Forks service calls for two months.

“I apologize greatly if I forget to thank anyone,” De Ann said.

“I wanted to thank all of the people who really helped.

“I want them to know their money was well spent and is being enjoyed.”

________

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

Forks Forum Editor Christi Baron contributed to this story.

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