Refurbished Playground to Honor Gemmell Family

Gaithersburg is on the verge of replacing a playground that would be named for the Gemmell family, who lost three members when a plane crashed into their home in December 2014.

Work on the tot lot will be done by the Where Angels Play Foundation, an organization that since 2013 has been building playgrounds. The organization chooses communities that have been struck by tragedy, constructing playgrounds in honor of a designated “angel.”

The project will cost about $70,000 and about $20,000 has already been raised, said Bill Lavin, founder of Where Angels Play. A fundraiser has been scheduled at Bar Louie on April 25.

Lavin said work would begin about September.

The playground is adjacent to Griffith Park, which is next to City Hall. Lavin said it will be designed for 2- to 5-year-olds. Gemmell’s sons, Devin and Cole, were 7 weeks and 3, respectively.

Where Angels Play started with the Sandy Ground Project — playgrounds built in honor of each of the victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The project also helped to rebuild communities hit by Hurricane Sandy.

All told, the foundation has constructed 49 playgrounds in the United States, Canada and Rwanda.

Lavin said Ken Gemmell reached out to Where Angels Play to honor his wife, Marie, and his two sons, Cole and Devin. The three died Dec. 8, 2014 when a jet crashed into their home as it was landing at the Gaithersburg Airpark. Three people on the jet also died.

Ken Gemmell’s daughter, Arabelle, will be the on-site supervisor for the project.

Michele Potter, Gaithersburg’s parks director, called the foundation’s work with the city a unique partnership.

“We have not worked with a nonprofit before to do any playground replacement in the city. This was a wonderful opportunity,” she said.

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug


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