Children with disabilities often cannot play on a standard playground. As a result, they cannot take advantage of the amazing benefits that play provides.
An all-abilities playground is a space that provides inclusive play opportunities for children of all ages and abilities. These types of playgrounds are designed to promote the healthy development of all children's physical, social, cognitive and sensory abilities.
A parents’-led group is working to construct an all-abilities playground at the Rock River Intermediate School in Waupun for students grades two to six. Kendra Ter Beest and Naomi Beahm, both parents of children with special needs, sparked the concept as they were touching base on their children’s progress.
“For children with special needs, play areas and playgrounds let them play and be children just like everyone else,” Ter Beest says. “Play is crucial for human development, the growth of social skills and self-confidence. For other children who do not have these challenges, playground equipment for all abilities offers major benefits. Connecting children with different backgrounds and abilities encourages empathy, as well as social and emotional skills that will benefit children throughout their entire lives.”
The group - Access 4 Recess - started its fund-raising efforts with a local kickoff, raising $7,000 in just three hours. The all-abilities playground’s largest cost will be poured rubber, making it accessible for every ability. With the playground’s location at the school, it will be something that the entire community can enjoy.
“Poured rubber is wheelchair accessible,” Ter Beest says. “The existing pea gravel poses challenges to accessibility not only for children but for adults who accompany them for play.”
That’s when Waupun Memorial Hospital, as a member of Agnesian HealthCare, and the Agnesian HealthCare Foundation stepped in. A combined $44,000 donation will help Access 4 Recess complete the poured rubber footing.
“We appreciate the opportunity to help make a difference in the lives of families within the Waupun community who will benefit from this very special playground,” says Holly Brenner, Agnesian HealthCare Foundation president.
An all-abilities playground encompasses Agnesian HealthCare’s mission to providing a healing presence to all.
“This new playground will expand the focus of a standard playground to allow children with special needs to experience the gift of play, alongside other children,” Brenner says. “Children and adults in wheelchairs, walkers and braces will be able to share a play experience. The equipment and design address the needs of children with development delays, special sensory requirements and other physical challenges. We are honored to be a part of this.”
In summer 2018, the Waupun Memorial Hospital Medical Staff also donated $2,500 to help support Access 4 Recess efforts.
Donations can be sent to Education Service Center, 950 Wilcox Street, Waupun WI 53963. Checks may be made out to WASD, with Access 4 Recess in the memo field.