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Holly Ridge spared by budget ax

Holly Ridge’s luck is turning around.

The neurodevelopmental center, which serves special-needs children ages 3 and younger, is celebrating the opening of a $30,000 playground designed for toddlers, a saltwater hydrotherapy pool and a new physical therapy room.

Agency leaders also are breathing a sign of relief after Holly Ridge avoided the crippling budget cuts it faced during the 2002 legislative session.

“It was a last-minute decision by the Legislature and the governor accepted it,” said Roxanne Bryson, executive director of Holly Ridge. “The (state Department of Health) was shocked, and they wouldn’t comment on it.”

The year got off to a rough start for Holly Ridge. A January deluge washed out Taylor Road, and the center temporarily was forced to relocate to downtown Bremerton.

On top of that, Gov. Gary Locke proposed eliminating funding for neurodevelopmental centers — including Holly Ridge, one of 14 non-profits that would have been affected.

On paper, the cut would have cost the center just $44,000. But because of complex regulations governing the program, the move would have set off a chain of additional reductions which would have gutted 40 percent of Holly Ridge’s $1 million budget, according Bryson.

Lobbying by the families which patronize neurodevelopmental centers around the state contributed to the 11th-hour turnaround, Bryson said. But Holly Ridge, which served 330 children last year, is not out of the woods yet.

“I suspect it will be recommended for cuts again next year, but we have a year to talk with Department of Health administration to try to find a resolution,” Bryson said.

Local parents also are relieved by the decision.

Jean Preston, who has brought her 2-year-old daughter Kamryn to the center for a year and a half, said her daughter’s condition has improved dramatically.

“When we found out it wasn’t going to be cut we were so happy. If it wasn’t for Holly Ridge, where would these kids go?” Preston said.

When Kamryn, a petit blonde, first arrived at the center she couldn’t sit up and her right side was paralyzed by cerebral palsy. Thanks to intensive physical therapy at the center, “Now (Kamryn) can hold things in both her right and left hands. She can sit up and crawl and she’s learning to walk,” Preston said.

Parents are also thrilled about the new playground — the old one was removed because of deterioration, Bryson said.

Carol Kellberg watched her 22-month-old son Vincent play rambunctiously on the new equipment, and push other children in his play group on wheeled carts.

“It opened just in time for the good weather,” Kellberg said. “I think it’s great for the kids to play outside.”

The playground is lined with a rubberized covering designed to protect students from falls.

The bulk of the money for the projects came from the Boeing Community Fund, in which Boeing employees sign up for a payroll deduction and identify worthy non-profit organizations for funding.

The hydrotherapy pool and the new physical therapy room, which comprise the new wing, cost $360,000. Close to $100,000 of that money was used to outfit the building with a sprinkler system.

If you go

The Holly Ridge Center, located at 5112 N.W. Taylor Road, will dedicate the Bob Merriman Memorial Playground and a new children’s wing and hydrotherapy pool during a ceremony set for 1-3 p.m. Saturday, May 4.

The public is welcome, and refreshments will be served. Call 373-2536.

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