MANCHESTER — The parents of a Manchester boy who died after being swept away by a wave during a family vacation in North Carolina two years ago say plans to donate a new playground to the elementary school he would have attended are on hold for a year, due to COVID-19 concerns.
Wesley Belisle, 4, died in April 2018 when he was swept into the Atlantic Ocean while on a beach vacation in the Outer Banks with his parents, Lindsey and Derek Belisle of Manchester. At the time, authorities said Wesley was walking along a beach with his mother when he was pulled out to sea by a rogue wave. His body was recovered the following week at Carova Beach, about 34 miles north of Kitty Hawk.
In the months following their son’s death, the Belisles and their extended family created Wesley’s Way Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to promote education and awareness of the dangers of the ocean, promote literacy and education, help underprivileged community members, and provide community improvement by enhancing parks and playgrounds.
The Belisles are working with Bill Lavin from the Where Angels Play Foundation to design and “gift” a new playground on the campus of Green Acres Elementary School in Manchester. The foundation helps support families who have lost a child by building playgrounds honoring their memory.
Lindsey Belisle said the initial plan for the playground calls for equipment and structures that would allow the site to be enjoyed by all children, including those with disabilities.
The foundation designs and builds playgrounds that feature colors and structures important to the child being remembered.
“Wesley loved orange and purple, so those will be incorporated,” Lindsey Belisle told the Union Leader last year. “He loved Jeeps, too. Loved counting them if we were out, loved cars, and his favorite animal was a pig. If he saw an orange Jeep, well that was the best thing ever.”
Green Acres was chosen because it’s where Wesley would have attended school, and its current playground equipment could use an upgrade.
Manchester school board members met remotely Tuesday night, and were updated on the status of the project.
Where Angels Play has a few playground builds in 2020 scheduled before Wesley’s playground, and those builds have been put on hold for the past few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the spring of 2021 is now looking like the target date for Wesley’s playground.
Estimates place the cost of the playground between $80,000 and $100,000, to be fully paid by donations.
A road race — Wesley’s Way 5K — which will be used to help fund the playground, was postponed back in April due to COVID-19 concerns to a new date of June 13. The race will now be a virtual 5K, which can be completed between June 13 and 27.
Those interested in participating can sign up at https://bit.ly/2U4AvRd.