Mayah Abelman is “over the top excited” about the new all-inclusive playground at her school.
The Grade 5 student sped around in her wheelchair chatting with friends, teachers and EAs at the school’s grand opening celebration of the playground Thursday afternoon.
Abelman is one of about 15 students at the school who have varying abilities or special sensory needs that make enjoying a traditional playground difficult. For her, the new rubber tile ground cover makes scooting around the playground a breeze. The play structures are spaced far apart, giving ample room for navigating classmates during a busy recess or lunch hour. It’s a nice break from bumping over uneven grass and shifty sawdust, she said, where she’s more likely to get stuck.
And then there’s the playground. The swing is a large saucer, big and sturdy enough to lay down and stretch out in the sun or fly into the air. The old-fashioned, hand-spun carousel has been redesigned as a spinner. With child-friendly back rests and low-to-the-ground entry points, it looks more like a spinning pizza shell.
Finally, right in the centre of the park, there’s an open air hideaway for children to take a break from the action.
The playground has taken almost two years to build, with a massive fundraising effort carried out by a team of nine parents on a special committee.
Katrina Eng spoke on their behalf at the celebration, thanking the community and corporate sponsors for believing in the project.
In total, the playground cost $103,000, with a third of the cost going toward the special ground cover.
The accessibility is going to make a difference in the school, Eng said, but also for the community in general. Just around the corner is the Chilliwack Society for Community Living’s Mathieson Centre, and kids from that program use the playground as well.
“That’s a big part of why we brought this here,” Eng said.
Their efforts began in September 2013, and included entering in an online Avitas contest. They won $5,000 through votes from the community. They garnered support quickly and earned grants, fundraised with parent nights, and even entered a float into the Chilliwack Christmas Parade.
They had raised enough money to begin building earlier this March, completely replacing an older wooden structure, and adding to some previously purchased playground pieces.
There are now plenty of play areas to go around, and the students erupted in cheers on Thursday as the ribbon was cut.
“This is amazing,” Abelman said, waiting her turn on the giant swing. “I love everything here.”