There's a saying that no good deed goes unpunished.
Steve Maze believes it's true.
Mr. Maze, of Canton, and his supporters have spent hours — and thousands of dollars — to fix up Washington’s 7th Ward playground in honor of his daughter and her two young children, who were slain five years ago by his daughter's estranged husband, the father of the children.
Orlando Guarino is serving three life sentences for murdering Ashley Guarino, 2-year-old Dreux and 11-month-old Orlando Jr. on July 9, 2008, in their Marianna home.
But the A.D.O. Memorial playground — named for the initials of the three victims — has been repeatedly vandalized since it opened in June after renovations.
Mr. Maze believes a group of teens is responsible for much of the damage at the playground on Second Street.
His Facebook page is a testament to the frustration felt by residents and supporters, who describe the incidents as “horrible,” “terrible” and “rotten.”
“What a shame! All that hard work and expense!” lamented one of his Facebook followers.
Mr. Maze and his supporters raised money to fix up the playground and spent about $5,200 to buy play equipment and supplies last year. In the spring, they cut grass, cleaned debris and removed garbage. They mulched a play area and installed the equipment, including a swing set, climbing bars and a play set.
Even before they made the improvements so that the playground could open in early June, vandals had painted and carved obscenities into a new wood picnic table, which Mr. Maze repaired. The group spent $900 on dusk-to-dawn and motion-detection lighting and another $1,900 to repair damages caused in recent months.
Since early June, here are some of the incidents at the playground reported to Mr. Maze and police:
• July 6 — Mr. Maze found a bottle of whiskey, a crack cocaine pipe and a torch used for smoking crack.
• July 9 — Climbing bars were bent and log swings were broken.
• Aug. 31 — A neighbor called Mr. Maze at work to report witnessing a drug deal in the playground.
• Sept. 17 — Play set seats were twisted off and broken, bars on a jungle gym were bent, and bolts were removed.
• Dec. 28 — An $800 swing set was in pieces, swings were broken or missing, and remaining swings were slashed in half with a knife.
Before he makes any more improvements, Mr. Maze wants to use some of the remainder of the money — about $4,200 — to buy Internet security cameras, repair a perimeter fence and install locks.
He also wants to make the playground usable by children with disabilities, although he will not make those improvements until the vandalism is halted.
The property was home to the 7th Ward school, but that building was demolished years ago and the playground, owned by the city of Washington, fell into disrepair as the city’s finances took a tumble in recent years.
“We can’t thank him enough for his hard work and efforts,” Washington Mayor Brenda Davis said of Mr. Maze, who implemented improvements that the city’s parks and recreation department had recommended for the property but the city couldn't afford.
Ms. Davis said the city does not have the resources to place cameras in the playground or repair the fence around it, although she said the city could perhaps place signs in the area once cameras are installed.
“We just don’t have any extra money to put in that direction right now,” she said.
She said city police have been stepping up patrols in the neighborhood.
“We try to patrol that area and keep an eye on the playground,” she said. “We would love to have cameras there to help cut down on this.”
Police will investigate and respond immediately if they are called to the playground, she said.
“If someone sees something occur there, they need to call the police immediately,” Mayor Davis said. “The neighbors are the ones who can help the police department — they are the eyes and ears.”
Mr. Maze said he hopes to persuade neighbors to keep a closer watch on the playground and to report incidents they find suspicious.
“I can’t believe no one sees them,” he said of the vandals.
He said he previously tried talking to parents of youngsters he saw damaging equipment, but the parents he contacted didn’t respond.
Mr. Maze said he’s doesn't understand why someone would want to damage a project that’s so close to his heart.
“I guess it’s just reality. Kids are going to do what they’re going to do until they get caught,” he said.
To donate or volunteer, call 724-531-0286 or send checks to: Ashley A. Guarino Trust Fund, c/o First Commonwealth Bank, 10 Trinity Place, Washington, PA 15301.
Janice Crompton: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1159.