Airdronians Kayla McPhail and Shelby Perrotta are hopeful that their endeavour will be finished this summer; the endeavour being Airdrie's very first inclusive playground in Bayside Rise.
McPhail, whose mother to three children, including six-year-old Bronson who has cerebral palsy said that she was spurred by the fact that her son doesn't have many options to be able to play with either his siblings or other kids his age because of the lack of inclusive playgrounds in Airdrie.
"He is mostly in his wheelchair to get around, but he also uses a walker to support his mobility. Having community places like playgrounds that are fully inclusive are very limited in our city and it breaks my heart to see my younger children get to play and use these playgrounds, while Bronson has to sit on the edge and watch," she said.
While the family has been visiting parks in Calgary, McPhail felt it was time for Airdrie to also have an inclusive park.
"Bronson is a child that just wants to play and be included just like any other typical child and we as a community need and can do better for children like my son with a disability that is already limiting him day-to-day."
McPhail would reach out to her close family friend Perrotta, who has also been working with Bronson for several years, and the two would begin to plan a way to make the idea a reality. Perrotta said her initial reaction was immediate. The two women partnered with the Children’s Charity Variety, and various community and business members in Airdrie and the City of Airdrie.
According to McPhail and Perrotta, The City of Airdrie is providing $87,200 towards this playground, with Variety and community members are fundraising with a goal of bringing an additional $110,000 to the project to ensure the playground is fully inclusive. Perrotta underlined that there is a difference between an accessible playground and an inclusive one.
"Accessible refers more to defining accessibility as a way to get onto the playground without issue, especially for those in wheelchairs or other physical needs. The definition also centers around playing on the equipment with no further help," she said. "The meaning of inclusivity means that playgrounds are developmentally appropriate for children with and without disabilities and are thoughtfully designed to provide a safe place where children of all abilities can come together."
The current overall cost for the project is $197,000. This includes:
Rubber Surfacing $55,000
Toddler Structure $65,000
Saucer Spinning Seat $20,000
Ground Trampoline $20,000
Musical Instruments $12,000
Installation Cost $25,000
The two women are confident the playground will be fully operational this coming summer.
"We will continue to contact local businesses to see how they can support us. We are in the process of securing some local venues to help facilitate upcoming fundraisers in the community and we are active on social media through our Facebook group Make Airdrie Playgrounds Inclusive and Accessible, where we will share the most up-to-date information on donations and how close we are to reaching our goal," McPhail said.
She added that when the project is complete her son will be ecstatic.
"Bronson is going to be excited because [when] we go out to other variety playgrounds, he has the best time ever. So, bringing it to Airdrie is going to be amazing, not just for Bronson, but kids like him with other different abilities and typical kids and his siblings to play with him."
McPhail and Perrotta are already planning on another inclusive playground project for the summer of 2024.
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