Park School Needs a Playground its Students with Disabilities Can Use

They are so close to their goal…make a donation today

He could not be pushed over the current wood chip surface to access the playgropund

The school playground is usually empty. The swing frame holds no swings. The wooden climbing structure is decaying, faded and cracked with age. The wood chip surface is thin and unusable for children whose wheelchairs can’t be pushed across it. When the Penny Park, a public playground in Evanston, fell into disrepair, the community rallied to have it rebuilt. But this school for children with significant special needs still has a playground its children can’t use.

Is it any wonder that parents of children with disabilities feel their kids are invisible to the communities in which they live?  Eighteen months have passed since I first wrote about the Park School playground, and a small, dedicated group is still working hard to raise $150,000 so the children with serious physical impairments can access the playground equipment for various therapies and to generalize movements (i.e., climbing, walking on uneven surfaces, stepping up and down curbs), as well as for sensory breaks. Obviously, these kids need a playground that is handicap accessible.

Please donate to replace this unusable playground:

Park School is part of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school system. It serves seventy students, ages 3 to 22, who need a self-contained educational facility for reasons of safety, health, and/or the need for an intensive therapeutic environment. Julie Cutter, who fundraised to create Noah’s Playground in memory of her young son and is working to help with this effort, understands how challenging it has been for the small Park School community to raise this money.

“Many Park parents literally spend their days making sure their kids live to see the next one, or, at a minimum stay healthy and reach their fullest potential, whatever that may be.  David and I know what it’s like to live life that way, and advocating for a useable playground, sadly, falls pretty low on the list of must-do’s.  I know it would likely have been low on our list if Noah was currently a Park student, which he would have been.”

When I first wrote about how the playground’s surface itself made it impossible for children using wheelchairs or walkers to even enter the space, many (myself included) wondered why folks had to fundraise for something that was surely someone else's responsibility. School districts 65 and 202 send children to Park. Local residents use the playground for recreation. I now understand that thinking about it this way is unproductive. Children need to swing and play NOW. They can’t wait for all of the grownups to hash out issues of legality, responsibility, and morality.

After eighteen months of fundraising, including many donations surrounding a Valentine's Day appeal, Park School now needs $23,000 to make this dream a reality. Evanston/Skokie District 65 has agreed to do the demo work and haul away trash if the rest of the funds can be raised. Financial support from many caring individuals have already made a difference, and donations of any size are greatly appreciated. Area children have raised pennies at school, sold crafts and shaved ice, and donated from their own savings. District 65 PTAs have contributed, and area businesses have held fundraisers. Generous community benefactors Mary and Paul Finnegan recently made a donation of $25,000. If you know people who can make a significant contribution, please consider reaching out to them to support this project. We are a caring community that can make a difference in the lives of children facing many challenges.

Park School is getting closer to having a playground its children can use. As warmer days approach, please help the Park School kids get the playground they deserve. A donation of any amount will be greatly appreciated.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” -- Margaret Mead




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