The region 4 winner of the Together We Play™ essay contest is Kate’s Kause in Elmira, Ontario. Kate’s Kause is a 100 percent charitable organization committed to Angelman Syndrome awareness and fundraising for inclusive community projects. Read the excerpt below to learn where Kate’s mom, Kelly, gets her inspiration.
“My inspiration comes from our beautiful 2-year-old daughter, Kate. Kate was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome (AS) in 2010. AS is a traumatic diagnosis: those afflicted suffer from severe physical and intellectual disabilities, have poor verbal skills, sleep disorders, sensory sensitivities and require full support throughout their lives. To help bolster our spirits, we have created an organization named for Kate–Kate’s Kause–which we hope will help create the necessary change that will benefit all children. As Kate’s mom, I have the same dreams and hopes for Kate that any parent has: I want her to be happy, be surrounded by people who love her and be included in the world. One way of helping us fulfill our dream of full inclusion for Kate is through helping her do what children do best: play.”
The region two winner of the Together We Play™ essay contest comes from South Elgin, Ill. The FUNdation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, works to improve the quality of life for the residents of the Village of South Elgin through the development, implementation, and funding of recreation, education, and conservation programs, services and facilities. Read the excerpt below to learn more about their need for inclusive playgrounds.
“Imagine an adolescent boy and father visiting a park together. Because of his special needs, the boy is unable to use the swings appropriate for his age, so they try to fit him into a toddler bucket swing. Now imagine the terror of the child and the anxiety of the father when the child becomes stuck in the swing requiring responders to cut him out. Unfortunately, this scene was not imagined. It recently happened at a park in the Village of South Elgin.
The FUNdation embraces the Village motto “Where Tradition Meets the Future” by employing our traditional values while addressing the future needs for our community. We envision the creation of a welcoming park that is inclusive of age, sensory and developmentally appropriate playground equipment and free of barriers for visitors with physical challenges.”
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.
Once again, we want to thank everyone who submitted an essay. We are blown away by the essays, the letters of support, photos and videos that were received! It is clear that you all share our commitment of inclusive playgrounds and providing play for all abilities.
The last day we accepted essays, Aug. 1, was beyond busy! They were coming in every two minutes, and we received them up until the last minute. We received hundreds of essays–43 states and 4 provinces were represented!
The judging process has already begun. We are currently doing an internal review of all the essays, and then will pass them along to our judges, Cynthia Gentry, Stephani Victor and Scott Rains.