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Staff Writer

Within family units, it’s generally the mom who is central to all that goes on. She knows when little Billy is going to fall off his bicycle or when Susie will wander away. These days, she is often a wage earner as well, yet she still addresses the needs, wants and abilities of her offspring.

In these respects, Beth Quinty and Sue Heinz fit the description. But they’re also moms who’ve extended their limited time and energy a step further for the benefit of other moms and children.

As Shirley Play Board members, they work to develop up-to-date Playful City playgrounds suitable for younger children. The goal is to provide places where moms or dads can share small-town community life while their kids exercise and interact.

“Playful City grants are available to cities and towns across the country intended to encourage play within safe walking distances of every household,” said Heinz. “We’re hoping to expand this for the town, helping people become aware and building a community.”

A native Cape Codder, Heinz moved to Shirley Center from Hollis, N.H., six years ago. She and her husband, Kevin, have two boys: Deklan, 5, and Brady, 3. She’s a librarian at Pepperell’s Varnum Brook Elementary School and is president of the Shirley Education Foundation.

Quinty, a Bridgewater native, and her husband, Jim, have three children: Deran, 6; Catherine, 5; and Sierra, 2. He’s a lifelong resident. She moved to the Shirley Village home they’re renovating from Brookline. She is a pediatric physical therapist in the Wellesley school system.

The two moms met last June and discovered they share a similar desire to reach out to the greater community.

They recently acquired a $5,000 grant to conduct another annual Play Day Oct. 5 that coincides with the annual Trail Day, said Heinz.

The “tons” of events planned, she said, include geocaching, which is using coordinates to find hidden treasure; skatepark demonstrations, as Shirley is developing a community skatepark; an obstacle course, outdoor activities supported by the sporting goods store REI; paper maché; pumpkin painting and donating food.

“I’d like to see more developmentally appropriate playgrounds,” said Quinty. “When the existing ones were put in, that’s what playgrounds were. We’ve come a long way. Sue and I both think it’s important to have parents be able to come to sites in Shirley, not go to three or four of the surrounding towns.

“When kindergarten was being moved from Devens to the Lura A. White School, we felt there wasn’t enough out their to meet kids’ needs in developing those motor skills,” she said. “The playground was meeting the needs of older kids only.”

Heinz said she was recently floored when “someone at Benjamin Hill thanked me the other day for our efforts.”

As Mother’s Day approaches, both moms have been told their sons are making some “secret stuff” for them at school.

“I got gifts early this week — a new camera,” said Heinz. “My son just started baseball.

“I love being the mother of boys,” she said. “They’re physical in nature, but for some reason, my eldest is also so in tune with people, perhaps because I’m also comfortable socially.”

“Deklan is an aspiring rock-and-roll star,” she said. “He loves to sing, and he’s growing his hair out. He’s very physical, a great jock-to-be. We’d like Brady to be the water boy or bat boy because he’s too young to play right now. He wants to be with everybody.”

Motherhood is a “complete experience” that “changes the perspective on everything,” said Heinz. “It makes you a better person. The things you used to worry about are gone, laughable now in retrospect.

“I believed in staying home for the kids’ developmental years,” she said. “I did it for five, and that’s how this craziness started. I’m different as a mom than my own. She doesn’t think I should do all these things.

“Beth and I met a couple of years ago,” said Heinz. “We share common goals but in different ways. Beth’s an eloquent, bright, passionate lady. I’m kind of woohoo.”

Quinty appreciated the compliment but deferred to Heinz for the organizational part of the outreach.

“She’s better at running a group of people than I am, very enthusiastic,” said Quinty. “She’s rounded up a group of women to walk at 5 a.m. for an hour. I’d like to walk, but

“Motherhood is the most rewarding thing,” said Quinty. “They’re my little miracles. The precious years go by too quickly, and you don’t want to miss any of it. I’ve never done anything but work with kids. As an adult, it’s where I am and who I am. I always knew it would be.

“My kids are extroverts, and I prefer that,” she continued. “We live in a small town that is in many ways small-town America. It’s difficult to move from Brookline to Shirley. There aren’t any Thai restaurants around the corner, but here you can meet people on the streets, and it’s a nice place to raise kids.”

She said her kids “aren’t at the (don’t talk to) strangers thing yet, but it’s nice to say ‘hi’ to people. I don’t think there are many places like that anymore.”

Heinz said she sees the need to be a coordinator in her town.

“I work in Pepperell and love it,” she said. “It has that small-community feel and so does Shirley, but when fund-raisers start no one coordinates them and they seem to fail. People are too reliant on e-mail. I like phone calls and groups for friends to talk and work together.”

Those interested in helping the playground effort can call Heinz at (978)-425-9447 or e-mail her at Skheinz@msn.com.

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