There are big plans for the six acre lot at 550 North Hazel Street in Haughton.
The site, which is currently under construction, is home to Joe Delaney Park. It’s the place where families will go to make memories together and where the community will erect a memorial for the kind-hearted man who gave his life to save others.
Delaney, a Haughton native, was a two-sport All-American at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches and a Pro Bowl running back for the Kansas City Chiefs. He died June 29, 1983 while trying to save three children from drowning in a pond near Monroe.
His story has been told and retold through the years. One thing has always remained the same though – his actions that day matched his selfless lifestyle, coupled with his astounding athletic career, and make him an icon in north Louisiana far beyond any athletic arena.
Delaney couldn’t swim, but it didn’t stop him from trying. Only one survived the waters that day.
For years, the town of Haughton has wanted to honor Delaney with a park, but the funds were not readily available. The community has stepped in and the project has taken off.
Haughton schools — T.L. Rodes Elementary, Platt Elementary, Princeton Elementary, Haughton Middle and Haughton High — have each donated money raised through various efforts. Recently, Platt Elementary Principal Cathy Turner presented a check to Martha McGee, town alderwoman, for $6,003.66, proceeds raised at the school’s Run for FUNds event.
“We wanted to support the building efforts of the park because our kids will be directly impacted by it in a great way,” Turner said.
Joe Delaney Park was the focus of Platt’s Helping Hearts project this year. Students first learned about Delaney then discussed the park and its importance to his memory and to the community.
Students were challenged to not only participate in the run, but to get pledged donations for each lap they made. The goal was to run 2,500 laps as a school, but the students surpassed it, running a total 3,194 laps.
“We were super excited that our students got behind this project,” Turner said. “When they are high schoolers and they drive by this park each day, I know they will remember that they had a hand in its completion.”
Also making donations were T.L. Rodes for $1,011; Princeton Elementary for $2,000; and Haughton Middle for $440. Several seniors from Haughton High School have used their senior projects to raise money for the park as well.
McGee couldn’t be prouder of what the local community has done for this park.
“We know a lot of the younger generation doesn’t even know who Joe Delaney is, but this park has spread the word about this real Haughton hero,” she said.
Now that the funds are available, the park is taking shape…slowly. McGee said the tentative opening date is June 29, but the amount of rain this year has slowed things down a bit.
“We just can’t count on the weather. This happened last year, too, or else we would have been done by now,” she said. “It’s coming together though.”
Water and sewer lines have been installed at the park. The Bossier Parish Police Jury will be installing drainage and the parking lot in the coming weeks.
McGee said they have ordered their first piece of playground equipment, but there’s still a lot to be done in the next 10 weeks. She hopes to keep the momentum going, but donations are still needed to fund other areas of the park.
“We’ve applied for some grants, but knew that had to be done in phases,” McGee explained. “Our plan is to have a spray park, sand volleyball court, practice fields for baseball, football or even soccer. We’re going to have a walking trail around the circumference of the park. We hope to have one more big set of playground equipment. We appreciate any help anyone gives us.”
To make a donation or to discuss a fundraiser, contact Martha McGee at (318) 458-9157 or Reagan Currence (318) 422-4822.