Katie Stilwell first came to work at Commonwealth Wholesale as a sophomore in high school. Later, when she was a student at Christopher Newport University majoring in social work in 2004, Katie wanted to get involved in a community project. In discussing it with me, I suggested that she visit the all-inclusive playground in Chesterfield County, created by Jane Warrick's organization Katie and Friends. It was created not only for Jane's daughter, but all children with limited abilities. Katie and I discussed this very special project and felt that it was something we would both enjoy working together on. It was Katie who organized the first fundraisers - from bake sales, to concerts by Susan Greenbaum and raffles. Operation Hope began with a single college student who was inspired and motivated to take on this project.

Every donated dollar has gone directly to costs of playground equipment and construction. No donations have gone to any type of promotional materials, events or administrative costs.

by Dana Nelson


Operation Hope was established in 2004 by Dana Nelson and Katie Stilwell, recognizing the need of many children in our area to have a play area that they could share with their friends and interact with other children. Because of varied disabilities or special needs, they were truly missing out.

But that will change if our hopes of raising funds to build two new playgrounds in Hanover County are realized. With the help of Resources for Independent Living Inc, serving as the fiscal agent for Operation Hope, and the generosity of many, we are getting closer to this reality. But we have far to go.

The cost of one handicap accessible playground can run over $100,000. And we hope to build two! Our plans are to build one playground in Mechanicsville, at Pole Green Park; and one in Ashland, at Poor Farm Park!

We know these playgrounds can be very successful, as proven with "Katie & Friends" in Chesterfield County. Our county needs the same wonderful resource.

Please consider helping us make this dream a reality. You will not only be helping thousands of special needs children, but helping the entire community build a better understanding and acceptance of all.


  • To provide playgrounds that will maximize the development of children, regardless of their age or ability.
  • To comply with safety guidelines and provide safe access to all areas of the playground.
  • To educate the community on the need to promote understanding and acceptance of others.
  • To foster the development of social skills in children that will last a lifetime.
  • To provide a barrier-free environment where children, parents, grandparents, and siblings can relax and interact.
  • To provide playgrounds where physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists can utilize a natural environment for sessions.
  • To promote cognitive growth through imagination and play; encourage hands-on mental and physical educational experiences.