March 26, 2014 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
Whenever local mom Kristi Schons takes her two children to the park, her six-year-old plays on the exciting structures while the 12-year-old sits and watches.
Construction at Friendship Park this summer might be able to change that.
Orion Township is teaming up with Sister Souls Inc., a local nonprofit, in efforts to raise $50,000 to build a fully accessible, stimulating, park for kids with cognitive and physical disabilities.
Schons said she has quite a few friends in the area with special needs children. Her 12-year-old son Zander James has cerebral palsy, is stationed in a wheel chair, and is growing quickly.
"It's hard for me to transfer him from the vehicle to the wheelchair to the playground," Schons said. "But he loves being outside. He loves camping. So this is a big deal for him. Otherwise he goes to a playground and just sits while all the other kids are playing."
Schons helped Sister Souls pick out the equipment for the new "Let Them Play" playground to be built this summer at Friendship Park off Clarkston Rd and Baldwin, including two fully-accessible wheel chair swings, a "Jam Box," and a variety of auto-sensory elements that stimulate physical, sensory and cognitive abilities.
With the two fully accessible swings, Schons will be able to push Zander's wheelchair right into the actual swing and lock him in, a big relief to her, and an exciting opportunity for him.
"For them, "playing" is a bit different and more challenging. This playground will allow them to enjoy the park in a safe, accessible environment that they deserve," she said.
Businesses and individuals interested in donating to this cause can log onto www.letthemplay.eventbrite.com to view a list of items that can be purchased, individualized, and placed in the park. Items on the list include benches, bricks, bird houses, waste receptacles along with special wild flower area sponsorship. Donations can range from $50 to $1,000, and the nonprofit is facilitating all of the fundraising efforts.
"This playground is a first of its kind in our area where every aspect is geared specifically to those with special needs," said Chris Barnett, Orion Township Supervisor. "We are thrilled to partner with Sister Souls to make this amazing playground a reality."
Kimberly Casper who co-founded Sister Souls said her organization had been researching Michigan playgrounds, of which there are thousands of, and less than a dozen are fully-accessible.
"They have special sidewalks, but they have nothing for the children with special needs to do," Casper said. "We wanted to make this park unique for these children," she said.
The special assistance playground will also include a spongy flooring to make it easy for wheel chair accessibility.
If all of the $50,000 is collected, construction of "Let Them Play" is scheduled to start in July adjacent to the other new playground, "The Dragon's Den" at Friendship Park.
For more information on donations, the park itself or the nonprofit organization contact Sister Souls, Inc. at SisterSouls.Inc@gmail.com.