The Huntsville Junior Service League is working to add a playground equipped with play elements that will focus on activities for individuals with special needs, creating an inclusive environment for all to enjoy.
The idea for the Play For All Playground came to JSL member Amy McCormick after volunteering at Night To Shine, an annual prom hosted by The Arc Church for special needs kids and adults. McCormick realized just how many people in the area have disabilities, with no dedicated play area specifically designed for their needs and set out to begin the project in October.
The Play For All Playground will be placed between the two existing playgrounds at Kate Barr Ross Park to tie the area together and increase inclusion with activities addressing processing complications or mobility challenges that everyone can enjoy.
“None of this is just for people with special needs, so to be inclusive, it’s items that all kids of all ages and all abilities will enjoy, which means that they’ll be more apt to play together instead of having those that have different needs separated out,” McCormick said.
To better determine appropriate and exciting features to add to the playground, the committee has sought input from manufacturing companies, special needs teachers and families in the community with special needs kids, like local mother Kris Phillips.
Raising two sons in Huntsville, one with autism and one without, Phillips recalls not being able to find areas in town where the brothers could enjoy playing together.
“At all of the playgrounds, Dawson couldn’t really interact with anything, because he couldn’t swing, So if Chandler wanted to swing, Dawson couldn’t,” Phillips recalled.
While the playground’s design is still in the works, McCormick confirms that the area will be completely compatible with any type of physical ability and will include a flush mounted merry-go-round, as well as an eight to 10 panel maze. Each panel will feature different play items including gears and levers that can be manipulated from one side to the other to work the fine motor skills and sensory processing. Musical play will also be integrated throughout the area, including bongo drums, chimes and xylophones.
“I can’t wait to see the musical xylophone, that’s something that Dawson played with at Zilker Park in Austin and he loved it, so I can’t wait for the rest of the kids in Huntsville to enjoy that,” Phillips added.
Spearheading the playground, McCormick and a 10 member JSL committee, started working on the project in October, and are still in the process of receiving bids from construction companies and finalizing a budget. The project is estimated to cost between $80,000 to $110,000. The group has received $28,000 from an anonymous donor towards the cause so far. It’s a strong start, however, the committee still needs the community’s help. An additional $40,000 to $50,000 is estimated to be needed from community donations. JSL also plans on contributing the proceeds from their annual Mother of Pearl fundraiser in March, as well as their own funds to complete the project, hopefully, in time for summer.
Those who donate towards the playground budget will be included in a plaque dedication with the amount contributed. Donations can be made via PayPal to email@example.com or arrange to meet a representative in person over email at firstname.lastname@example.org.