Imagine…

We read so many great essays when deciding the winners of the Together We Play™ contest, and want to share with you excerpts from the winning submissions. Here is part of what drew us in to learn more about the Sensory Garden Playground Initiative at the Wheaton Park District in Wheaton, Ill.

Imagine the sounds of happy children running, climbing, swinging and digging, while parents chat nearby. Imagine the relaxing atmosphere of unstructured play which encourages problem-solving and socialization among peers. Imagine entire families enjoying recreation together.

Now imagine the nightmare a park can be for families of children with sensory processing problems–too much noise, too much contact, no place to withdraw safely. Imagine the panic of parents when a child on sensory overload runs away, or the embarrassment when their child becomes overwhelmed and bites or hits another child. Imagine a family’s frustration at not being able to enjoy a park atmosphere because the facility isn’t safe and welcoming for a child with special emotional needs.

We imagined all this and more.

Then we saw a safely fenced play area with room for children to spread out, surrounded by a fitness trail for adults. We saw surfacing where wheeled devices move easily and equipment is designed to engage sight, hearing, smell, movement and touch. We saw places where a child can withdraw easily and safely, so that each one can learn to regulate his or her own sensory input. We saw a welcoming place where whole families can relax and engage and enjoy their time together.

We saw the need for a multi-community effort to build a world-class facility, and we are ready and willing to lead in making it a reality.

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.

Final announcement coming soon

We are finalizing a few last details before announcing the winners of the Together We Play™ contest. Thank you all for your interest in the contest, and even more for your commitment to inclusive play. We expect to make the final announcement of the GRAND PRIZE and RUNNER UP winners within the next 24 to 48 hours. Keep checking back!

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?!

The contest is now closed

Thank you for your interest in the Together We Play essay contest. The contest is now closed, and we are beginning the judging process. We are overwhelmed by your commitment to inclusive play, and are excited to read the essay submissions.

The final announcement of Grand Prize and Regional winners will be on or around Sept. 30, 2011. You can stay up-to-date on the judging process and more right here.