Rose Fotia is a woman, wife and mom with no idle time on her hands. She is a tireless advocate for children on Hilton Head with disabilities, in memory of her son Gregory, who died in 2000 at the age of 12.

Gregory suffered from a rare seizure disorder called West Syndrome that kept him bound to a wheelchair and unable to do anything physically by himself.

Fotia has been working tirelessly for two decades to make sure his legacy endures.

She and her husband, Frank, founded the Children’s Relief Fund in 1991 when Gregory was 3, and have raised millions of dollars to provide the local community with programs, therapy and other enabling instruments to better assist those with disabilities.

Now, her focus is on rebuilding Gregory’s Playground at the Island Recreation Center, a play area for special needs children that was dismantled as part of the facility’s ongoing expansion project.

It was built in the early 1990s, upgraded and renamed in dedication to her son in 2000.

“The new playground will focus on every child with disabilities,” she said. “It will be amazing, wonderful and a premiere playground in the Southeast… We can’t forget the parents of special needs children who always want to take their children to a place that’s fun.”

Fotia noted that the equipment already has been purchased, including a sensory tunnel for children with sensory problems like autism and other disorders. Installation, surfacing and landscaping are still on the to-do list. A construction timetable has not been finalized.

Funding for the playground’s initial $350,000 cost projection during planning stages was covered by a 10 percent donation by the Children’s Relief Fund with the bulk coming from contributions by the Kiwanis Club of Hilton Head and the Palmetto Kiwanis Club. However, costs are expected to surpass $500,000 since then, and grant applications are being submitted to cover the cost gap.

“Gregory’s Playground is special in a lot of ways,” said Island Recreation Center executive director Frank Soule. “We’ve had it on our site here, it seems like forever.”

An online Legacy of Play contest begins May 15, sponsored in part by Kiwanis International, to potentially win $25,000 for the playground. Individuals can vote daily at The contest ends May 31.

Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.


People for Parks, the fundraising partner for the Island Recreation Association, will host “The Lowcountry Experience” from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 4 at the Sailing and Rowing Center on Skull Creek, 137 Squire Pope Road.

The event will include a Lowcountry Boil, shrimp and grits, cornbread and other Lowcountry cuisine. A cash bar will be available and The Nicest Guys in Town will provide musical entertainment.

All proceeds will benefit the Equip for Fit campaign to furnish the renovated and expanded Rec Center.

Tickets are $35 each and are available at