Township Residents Arti and Hemant Garg are Ohio Citizens of the Year - WHIOTV7 - Feb 3, 2020


Township Residents Arti and Hemant Garg are Ohio Citizens of the Year


Washington Twp. parents turn grief into playgrounds

Published: Monday, February 03, 2020 @ 12:30 AM

— In 2006, Arti and Hemant Garg’s 6-year-old daughter, Yukta, was killed in a car crash as she was leaving the Washington Twp. Rec Center after a day at summer camp.

In the 13 years since, they have transformed their grief into action, founding the Yukta Garg Memorial Foundation, raising $50,000 through a series of Bollywood concerts, and working hand-in-hand with township staff to establish three separate playgrounds.

The Gargs have been recognized as Citizens of the Year by the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association, which will honor the couple at the association’s annual banquet held Tuesday in Sandusky. The award makes them feel that their efforts to give back to the community in the name of their daughter have been appreciated.

“We did not expect it when we were notified that we were going to be recognized by the OPRA Citizens of the year. We were nevertheless delighted that our ongoing efforts to help and giving back to the community since the horrible tragedy being recognized,” Hemant Garg told the Dayton Daily News. “We are grateful and humbled by it. This recognition is due to the love, support, generosity of the Dayton community, Washington Twp. staff and the trustees.”

To raise funds for the playgrounds, the Gargs in 2007 began organizing a series of Bollywood Galas. The annual galas attract hundreds of people and have included performances by renowned entertainers from the Bollywood film industry in Mumbai, India, and also respected local artists.

The Gargs direct all aspects of the three-hour galas, from booking acts to designing graphics, renting equipment, and coordinating audio visuals.

“We wanted to relate Yukta’s memory with happy things and what she used to love,” Arti Garg explained. “When we see kids playing, making friends, making their own sweet memories, laughing, running around, we see our daughter.”

Inspired by Yukta’s love of butterflies, the Butterfly Playground was the first to be designed and installed. It was followed by the Nature Sounds Playground that reflects her love of music and includes six large outdoor instruments.

In 2019, the preschool playground celebrated its grand opening in the Rec West building. The play space, called Yukta’s Garden, is protected from the elements, but offers an outdoor neighborhood feeling. The idea was that it would celebrate her passions and be a gift to other children in the community.

Township Recreation Director Mark Metzger said the Gargs are an inspiration to everyone.

“Because of their activism and altruism, three recreation playgrounds have been created in Yukta’s memory and reverberate with the sound of children’s laughter,” he said.

In December, the Montgomery County Township Association presented the Gargs with its Community Impact Award for the same efforts that they have displayed toward the residents in Washington Twp.

Hemant Garg said the couple’s foundation is doing fine and they continue to do their signature fundraising event annually.

“Over the years, it has raised over $51,000 and helped create three playground pods,” he said. “We will continue to raise money that will be utilized to benefit the recreational opportunities for youth in our community.”

The next annual Bollywood Gala returns on March 1.

The Citizens of the Year Awards were judged by a panel of parks and recreation professionals from around Ohio.


Outdoor Musical Instruments Added to Butterfly Playground

Outdoor Musical Instruements Added to Butterfly Playground - Washington Township Quarterly, Fall 2014, Aug - Nov, Volume 25, 3



Best of Bollywood - Washington Township Quarterly, Spring 2019, Feb-Apr, Vol. 30, No. 1

Best of Bollywood - Washington Township Quarterly, Spring 2019, Feb-Apr, Vol. 30, No. 1

An afternoon of culture returns! WT Recreation and the Yukta Garg Memorial Foundation invite you to spend an afternoon enjoying the music of Bollywood as performed by area talent. The free event, with complementary snacks, takes place at the Rec West Auditorium, 965 Miamisburg-Centerville Rd. All proceeds benefit recreational opportunities for youth offered by WT Recreation. Recent projects include the indoor playhouse for preschoolers at Rec West which will be open to the public on this day. Have fun on our new playhouse and enjoy some live entertainment.



New Butterfly Playground Offers Fun and Creativity

New Butterfly Playground Offers Fun and Creativity

A new Butterfly Playground that expands creative play opportunities for children is open at Washington Township's Countryside Park, 895 Miamisburg-Centerville Rd. 

The Butterfly Playground's dedication ceremony took place at the annual Halloween Howl where children had opportunity to experience the first two areas of the playground - Nature Sounds and Butterfly Meadow. Nature Sounds offers a music and theater space for creative play, while Butterfly Meadow offers a place to climb and play. Both are handicapped accessible.

“This is the first playground in our community to offer this type of physical and creative play. The outdoor musical play space is the only one of its kind in the Miami Valley," said Dave Paice, recreation facilities director. The first two phases include:

Nature Sounds Area –

A stage provides the focal point and is surrounded by three large, outdoor musical pieces -- including a grouping of five hand drums, a metalophone, and chimes that are 9-feet tall. Concrete seating offers a place for parents and others to enjoy the show. Nature Sounds is located behind the Rec Center.

Butterfly Meadow Area –

A spider-web like structure offers a place for kids five and older to climb and play, while lady bugs provide smaller climbing opportunities. A nearby toddler area includes a bridge, slide, steps for climbing, and springy poles to stand on and practice balancing skills. Both sections are decorated with butterflies and located near the park’s A-frame shelter.

Community Support

The playground concept was approved as part of a 2002 master plan for Countryside Park. After approving the plan, Washington Township Trustees pledged $50,000 in matching seed money. Since then, an additional $202,000 has been raised through grants and donations, including $32,000 from Arti and Hement Garg to honor the memory of their daughter, Yukta, an avid Recreation Center user and butterfly lover who died in an auto accident near the recreation center. To raise funds, the Gargs organized a series of benefit concerts featuring internationally-known singers and musicians from the Bollywood film industry in Mumbai, India.

“The Gargs have been incredible partners in establishing a financial base for a playground. They’ve brought tremendous organization, creativity and passion to their fundraising,” said Senior Recreation Supervisor Linda Madden, who oversees the project.

Playground Design

The play areas were developed by local landscape architect Eric Sauer who donated his time and enlisted the help of young recreation center users. Campers and Rec’ing Crew members expanded upon the butterfly theme inspired by Yukta, offered their interpretations, and sketched out their ideas.

“Many people have helped make the Butterfly Playground a reality,” said Madden. “Scouts have devoted considerable time and effort.” About 200 Girl Scouts helped plant two new gardens next to the Butterfly Meadow area and Boy Scouts have constructed seating, made butterfly houses, installed benches, and planted a butterfly-shaped garden.

The Next Stage

More funding will be needed to complete all five phases of the playground, including a Natural History Play Area where kids can dig for oversize fossils and learn about local geology; a Woodland Play Area that offers playful opportunities to learn about native animals and insects; and a Pond & Stream Play Area where children can learn about local pond and stream environments.

“The plan calls for play areas scattered throughout the park. We hope that children someday can walk the entire one-mile path and have fun at different play stations throughout,” Madden said.