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Illinois' First All-Access Playground to Be Dedicated Thursday

The facility, which can be used by children with disabilities and in wheelchairs, was built by United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois Prairieland.

Credit: Eloise Crabb/United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois Prairieland
Credit: Eloise Crabb/United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois Prairieland
The state's first all-access playground, with pathways and equipment for children in wheelchairs and with other physical limitations, will be dedicated Thursday at the United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois Prairieland in Joliet.

The $230,000 facility has a rubberized ground base, a series of ramps leading to different amenities, and two sets of swings -- a more traditional style with a strap-in harness and the other designed to hold a wheelchair, said Eloise Crabb, the agency's director of fund development.

"It's so fun to go out there and watch (the students and adults) use it," Crabb said. "It's all so new to them."

The idea came from a casual conversation center CEO Jim Mullins had with a student when both were looking out on the old playground, which had equipment that many of agency's 50 students and 55-plus adult program participants could not use, she said.

"She said, 'Jim, it makes me very sad to see other kids playing on our playground and I can't be out there,'" Crabb said.

Mullins convened a committee, which looked at the issue and made a proposal to the board of directors, she said. It was decided the playground would be built when they could collect enough donations to cover the expense.

Money came in faster than anticipated, with the final $100,000 being provided by an anonymous donor earlier this year, Crabb said.

The rubberized base is an integral part of the playground design because it not only makes it easy for wheelchair use and provides a safer surface, but it covers a drainage system that will prevent flooding, she said. That had been a recurring problem with the old playground.

UCP students and adults were asked what features they'd like the playground to include, and other factors were taken into consideration, Crabb said. For example, students with cochlear hearing implants are unable to use equipment that bounces or has friction, so they some pieces that glide were chosen, she said.

Sensory perception was also important, so the colors are bright red, blue and yellow and some of the equipment produces musical sounds, Crabb said.

The playground dedication, set for 10:30 a.m. Thursday, will be attended by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville), several Joliet City Council members, agency board members and members of the Reedwood Homeowners Association, representing the neighborhood in which the school/center is located.

But it is also open to anyone who would like to attend, just as the playground can be used by anyone in the community -- not just those who participate in center programs or have cerebral palsy, Crabb said.

"We want others to come out and enjoy it," she said. "The community is very important to us."

The project's not quite finished, she added. They're now raising money to put in landscaping, wheelchair-accessible tables with umbrellas, a pathway around the park's perimeter and a sign listing everyone who donated to the project, she said.

To make a contribution, click here to reach their online donation page; send checks to United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois Prairieland, 311 S. Reed St., Joliet, 60436; or call Eloise Crabb at 815-744-3500, Ext. 234.
Infamous Steve October 24, 2013 at 10:05 AM
So how did Turtle park in Shorewood cost upwards of $430,000 and this one comes in at half the cost?
Infamous Steve October 24, 2013 at 10:07 AM
By the way...real smart putting concrete in half the splash pad area and rubber in the other half.

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