The Kiwanis Club of Downtown Springfield, Missouri, has a history of advocating for children with disabilities. In 1937, the club opened the first school in Springfield specifically for children with physical disabilities, supporting it for many years before it was adopted into the public school system. The only “accessible” playground in the community was there … until now.
Years later, the club entertained the idea of providing a socially and physically inclusive playground in a public park. Receptive to the idea, the local park board agreed to partner with the club, offering playground renditions, budget goals and a site at its Jenny Lincoln Park. The designs included ramps, ground level interactive panels and cushioned surfaces easily accessible to wheelchair users. Adaptive swings compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were to be installed and the parking area was to gain a ramp.
Although the club’s foundation pledged US$11,000, their $100,000 goal was not easily within reach.
“This was a daunting project, the largest this club had tackled in many, many years,” says club Treasurer Carol Cruise. “Our first hurdle was to get all the members to agree to this project, which meant a lot of work and a huge commitment. At the time we were a club of only 40 members. It was scary to many of us, because there was the fear of failure.”
Yet perseverance, grants, two major fundraisers and individual and business donations produced the sizeable sum for the Springfield-Greene County Park Board in just two years. Within another year, the playground and park changes were completed. The bus load of enthusiastic special needs children from the local elementary school who came to the dedication and the appreciative community leaders made it all worthwhile.
“In the end, our success made our club stronger. We aren’t ready to tackle another project of this size, but we now believe we can do anything,” says Cruise. –Courtney Meyer