Guest Blog: Gaining community support for your playground project

In June, we awarded the Iola Kiwanis club in Iola, Kan., $25,000 in playground equipment as part of the Make a Difference Through Play contest. Since winning, they’ve been busy with plans, and we’re happy to share another update from Michael Ford, member of Iola Kiwanis and community resource officer for the Iola Police Department.

We started gaining support for our inclusive playground project during the Make a Difference Through Play contest. The contest took place on Facebook so we were able to easily spread the word through the Iola Kiwanis club Facebook page, various community pages and each of our personal pages. With family and friends spread far and wide, we literally had support coming from around the world.

When we entered the contest many people said, “What are the odds that little Iola, Kan., can win this contest?” But the power of social media showed that anything is possible. With our online outreach and word-of-mouth spreading through the community, we secured enough votes to get our project to the top of the list. After winning the contest and sharing our plans for the inclusive playground—including plans to have the project completed by April 2014—we were concerned that we would be confronted by naysayers, but we’ve had nothing but support.

Inclusive playgrounds mean more than just accessible.

Top: OmniSpin® spinner; Middle Left: Oodle® Swing; Middle Right: Cozy Dome®; Bottom: Sensory Play Center®

To help increase community involvement, we included the M.O.M.S. group and physical therapist from school to help our Kiwanis club create a truly inclusive playground design. While I was thinking wheelchair accessibility, they helped educate our group on the need for sensory play panels, playground spinners and swings, as well as quiet areas where kids with autism or sensory processing disorders can take a “time out” if necessary.

While we move forward finalizing the design, we’re analyzing our site and creating an overall blueprint of the project. We’re also beginning to work more closely with the Iola Parks Department as they will be heavily involved with the installation and maintenance of the playground.

Stay tuned for another update from Michael next month. He’ll talk more in depth about designing an inclusive playground.