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.

Guest Blog: Securing funds for our inclusive playground

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 have an update to share from Michael Ford, member of the Iola Kiwanis club and community resource officer for the Iola Police Department.

After we were notified that we were the grand prize winners of the Make a Difference Through Play contest, our Kiwanis club met with the city council during open council to tell them about the $25,000 award from Landscape Structures. We took advantage of our time in front of them and also asked if they would consider pledging a matching donation to the inclusive playground. They agreed, which already put us at nearly 30 percent of our fundraising goal.

The Iola Kiwanis club asking for a matching $25,000 donation from the City of Iola.

The Iola Kiwanis club asking for a matching $25,000 donation from the City of Iola.

The award and the matching donation had our Kiwanis club energized, and we took that energy to meet with other local businesses to secure funds. The Iola Wal-Mart and a local bank each pledged $5,000, our Kiwanis club has pledged at least $2,500, and we have many more businesses pledging support with donations of anywhere from $500 to $1,500.

We’re working on a couple of grant applications—one through the Kansas Health Foundation and another with KaBOOM!. We also have fundraisers scheduled—a pancake breakfast, concessions at Farm City Days in Iola—with businesses pledging matching funds. Additionally, local construction companies have offered to donate materials when it comes time for the playground installation.

Iola is a city of 5,600 people. When you’re in a town this size, the community members know what’s happening in town. So while we have reached out to many businesses for donations, many have also approached us. We are trying to broaden our reach with a county-wide mailer to tell businesses and individuals that a fund has been set up through the Allen County Foundation so that they can easily make tax-deductible donations.

One design option for the Iola Kiwanis club's inclusive playground.

One design option for the Iola Kiwanis club’s inclusive playground.

Another aspect that was unexpected in this process was helping educate the community about planning, funding and installing a playground. Lots of the community members figured that we’d get the $25,000 from Landscape Structures and that would be it. But our vision is for a truly inclusive playground, and we realized quickly that we weren’t willing to cut back on the amount of playground equipment we wanted, and set our budget to meet that dream.

Stay tuned for another update from Michael next month when he’ll discuss getting community support.

Contest helps Kiwanis clubs “Make a Difference Through Play”

We are excited to be partnering with Kiwanis International to help a deserving Kiwanis club bring a playground to their community through a contest on Facebook called, Make a Difference Through Play. The winning Kiwanis club will receive $25,000 in playground equipment to be used toward a playground project that can be completed on Kiwanis One Day, April 5, 2014, which is Kiwanis International’s signature day of service.

Make a Difference Through Play contest

The contest is open to all Kiwanis clubs that are currently working on a playground project. Qualified contestants can enter the contest at facebook.com/Kiwanis by completing the entry form. Entries will accepted through May 5, 2013. Following the submission period, Facebook users will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite project. Find complete contest rules here.

Make a Difference Through Play contest

Landscape Structures became a vision partner of Kiwanis International in January 2013. Kiwanis and its family of clubs partner with Landscape Structures to bring play and playgrounds to communities across the globe. Learn more about the partnership at playlsi.com.