Playground project kick off

Grand Prize Winner: Wheaton Park District, Wheaton, Ill.

Receiving the Together We Play™ grand prize has been terrific way to kick off this significant project for our community and the region. Shane’s Inspiration and Landscape Structures visited our community in October to see the site, develop our matrix of design elements and formally present the award at the Wheaton Park District Board of Commissioners meeting on Oct. 19. Since then, the concept has been presented to several community groups including two enthusiastic grade school classes. We are eagerly awaiting the Shane’s Inspiration design that will allow us to start formal fundraising for the project.

Making progress

Region 5 Winner: City of Lewiston, Maine

On Nov. 15, we had a press conference and extensive meetings with Shane’s Inspiration and Landscape Structures. Since then, we’ve had a stakeholder’s matrix meeting and have shared all our thoughts and ideas around a theme of “The River” to Shane’s Inspiration’s Landscape Architect Virginia Hatley. Because the City of Lewiston is focusing on developing its riverfront, this inclusive playground theme seems like it will fit perfectly into Marcotte Park. We are now waiting for Virginia’s rendering of the design.

Stay tuned for more updates from the City of Lewiston, as well as the grand prize and other regional winners.

Sunday Night is Football Night

If you’re a football fan, you probably watch Sunday Night Football each weekend. What you might not pay attention to is the halftime show. However, last night, the halftime show featured Shane’s Inspiration and Landscape Structures playground equipment at Westside Park in L.A. The organization will be featured as part of Toyota’s Halftime Hand Off program, which aids organizations that use sports as a vehicle for change.

Jungle Wall at Westside Park

The Halftime Hand Off program profiles four organizations on the Toyota Facebook page each week, and asks fans to vote for the charity they feel is most deserving of support. The organization receiving the most votes each week receives a $10,000 donation from Toyota and is featured during the following week’s halftime show segment.

In addition to being featured on NBC’s Sunday Night Football and the $10,000 donation, NBC will create a 2-minute video on Shane’s Inspiration’s behalf that will be posted on YouTube and Facebook.

Congratulations to Shane’s Inspiration!

And the winners are…

We’re excited to announce that Wheaton Park District in Wheaton, Ill., is the grand prize winner of the Together We Play™ essay contest for their Sensory Garden Playground Initiative!

We’re also proud to announce the five runner-up winners of Together We Play:

  1. City of Gig Harbor, Wash.
  2. The FUNdation, South Elgin, Ill.
  3. Princess Alexa Foundation, Keller, Texas
  4. Kate’s Kause, Elmira, Ontario, Canada
  5. City of Lewiston, Maine

Keep working toward your goal. Your community–especially the children–will appreciate the work you’re doing to create a place where people of all abilities can play together. Stay inspired; check back to watch the progress of the contest projects here.

Playing together

Many children with special needs have difficulty adjusting to unstructured time, such as time on the playground. But after reading the Together We Play™ essays and speaking with parents and caregivers of these children, we know that the playground is an important place for children to be welcomed.

I recently came across a blog, Thin Places—Faith, Family and Disability, that discussed this topic. The author has a daughter, Penny, with Down syndrome. Penny started kindergarten this year and really enjoys it, but she sometimes has trouble sitting still and using her words. Penny’s teacher, however, is working closely with the author to ensure that Penny has friends.

“On Monday, though, Penny’s teacher took it to a new level. ‘The hardest time for Penny is on the playground,’ she said. ‘I think it’s because it’s such an unstructured time.’ So she’s decided to create a game time for Penny and a smaller group of friends. Usually the teacher would use that time to prepare for the second half of the day. But instead, she’s outside, making sure there’s a place for our daughter.

I spoke with a friend last night who has a daughter with Down syndrome who is also in elementary school. My friend was in tears because some kids had yelled at her daughter on the playground: ‘You don’t belong here!’ We talked for a long time about the difficulties of being a child with special needs, and the difficulty of being a parent of a child with special needs. She talked about the purpose of inclusive education, and she said, ‘I know that for my daughter to fit in means putting a square peg in a round hole. But I thought that inclusion was intended to make that round hole bigger.’ My daughter will not become a circle, but I’m grateful that the circle is becoming large enough for our daughter to fit in.”

Inclusive education is exactly what Shane’s Inspiration’s programming is all about. Their playground programming helps break down the barriers of bias toward children with disabilities through education. Check out what Shane’s Inspiration might be able to offer to your community.

The final countdown

Next week, we will unveil the winners of the Together We Play™ essay contest. The GRAND PRIZE winner, which will win $100,000 in inclusive playground equipment from Landscape Structures and $50,000 in playground design, project development and educational program services from Shane’s Inspiration. Additionally, we will award five RUNNER UP winners with $10,000 in inclusive play equipment from Landscape Structures and $50,000 in playground design, project development and educational program services from Shane’s Inspiration.

We’re excited to be so close to the final announcement! It has been great to read all of the essay submissions, and hard to whittle all of them down to only six. But as we reach out to each of the communities, we’re sure that they’re all very deserving.

There will be one RUNNER UP winner from each of the five regions outlined in the map below. The GRAND PRIZE winner will also come out of one of these regions. So… which region do you think will be awarded the $100,000 in inclusive playground equipment and playground programming?!

Accessible, but not inclusive

Many communities, schools and recreation centers strive to make playgrounds accessible for all. However, just because a playground is deemed accessible doesn’t mean that it’s inclusive. Rotary Miracle Playground in Dothan, Ala., recently experienced this. While their new playground was accessible, parents of children with disabilities felt the playground was unsafe because typically developing children didn’t know how to interact with those who had different abilities.

Education is vital to influencing inclusive play, which is why Dothan Leisure Services reached out to Shane’s Inspiration, a California-based national organization whose goal is to foster compassion through inclusive play. Leisure Services held their first “My Play Club” event on Saturday, Aug. 20, in which they invited children of all abilities to come and play together. Children with disabilities were paired up with typically developing “buddies,” and they played together on the playground, got their faces painted, and created arts and crafts.

According to the Dothan Eagle, Marnie Norris, director of programs at Shane’s Inspiration, said social barriers between children often disappear after interacting with each other. They begin to understand the differences, and any preconceived ideas or fears often disappear. Learn more about Shane’s Inspiration programming, and visit us on Facebook to see more photos of Dothan’s first “My Play Club.”