by O’Ryan Case, UCP’s Manager of Public Education Programs
A hot topic in the world of disabilities has been heating up. More and more stories of families pushing for accessible playgrounds continue to pop up on the Internet and in the news. The push for accessible playgrounds is gaining a lot of momentum– and rightfully so. Children of all abilities (and also parents and caregivers of all abilities!) should be able to access and enjoy playgrounds. We all want to have fun, meet new friends and swing, slide and ride the afternoon away. So we should not let routes and surfaces, among other factors, get in the way.
I was fortunate to see this firsthand at an event near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania last month. I am a big fan and follower of Chasing Rainbows, a blog run by Kate Leong, who is among the many inspiring parents and caregivers connecting and sharing ideas with one another online. For more than six years, Leong has been sharing her family’s stories with the world, including those about her first son, Gavin, who had cerebral palsy. Last year, at the age of five, Gavin died very unexpectedly– and earlier this month, Leong arranged a tremendous fundraiser, Gavin’s Playground Project, in his honor. Commemorating the one-year anniversary of her son’s passing, she held this event to help build an accessible playground at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware. “Their current playground is wonderful, but it isn’t accessible. I remember the first time I wheeled Gavin out there in his chair with his little brother. I wanted to cry when I realized that there wasn’t a single thing that Gavin could do. And I had to stop short of the equipment because I couldn’t push his chair over the mulch,” Leong explained. “My goal is to fully fund a playground there where ALL kids can play…where NO child will ever feel left out…and where everyone can play safely together.”
Gavin’s Playground Project event was a huge success– and that is an understatement. Filled with a trivia game, silent auction, raffles and tons of inspiration, the event had more than 400 participants and raised roughly $60,000! It was incredible seeing so many people supporting such a great cause, led by one busy mother whose determination helped make it happen with only two months worth of planning. Leong is a prime example of the huge impact parents and caregivers of children with a range of disabilities can have. A real difference can be made and I am excited to continue seeing our push for accessible playgrounds grow.
For more information, check out “Playgrounds for ALL Kids!” by Cindy Burkhour. A huge advocate for the rights of people of all abilities, Burkhour has consulted all over the country to help ensure parks and other recreational programs and activities are accessible to individuals with disabilities.