Play Spaces Transform Communities – Baltimore, MD

On August 22, 2019, a team of Baltimore based community groups banded together to transform an open space located in the Franklin Square Community located at 1824 W. Saratoga Street, into a community gathering place, a place for healing, a place for play. Together Parks and People Foundation, Bon Secours, Celebration Church and several local community members completed the “Healing Communities Through Play™” playground build in only eight hours. The goal was to transform an open lot where once stood abandoned row houses; a neighbor hood dumping ground into a neighborhood park.

“This will become truly the center of the community here, something positive for people to focus their efforts around,” said Steve Preston, of the Parks and People Foundation.

The Kirby Lane Park playground, gardens and community space will serve as the capstone of an endeavor that has been a labor of love, driven by the will to fulfill a community’s potential. More importantly, the playground is an instrument that demonstrates how multiple groups can work together for the greater good. Play is critical for all children to aid in their development, foster friendships and teach lasting life skills.  To read more about this Healing Communities project click here.

Heartland Regional Medical Center Inclusive Playground – Marion, IL

It did not take long for the Marion community to wrap their arms around this signature project. Naming sponsor Heartland Regional Medical Center paved the way for a quick and smooth play campaign. A well-connected, dedicated community leader and Marion Parks District staff led the charge to engage groups like NRPA/Disney, Rotary, Ameren Illinois, Watermark Auto Group and more. In addition to creating a destination play space using the 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design ™ , we also included a shaded fitness zone so youth, parents and caregivers can get in some exercise time while the kids play.


St. Cloud’s Commons Inclusive Playground – Huntington, WV

If there was ever a project that illustrates the story – “The Little Engine that Could” it is this one. The Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation showed their community and the surrounding area that with dedication, creativity and sometimes not taking “no” for an answer, funds can be raised to benefit all children.   Fueled by inspiration, both the Parks Director and Development and Recreation Manager led the charge to engage all sectors of their community including countless hours writing grants and making phone calls. Occasionally that meant camping out on an inflatable duck for over 24 hours and dressing up like a banana waging a “Let’s Go Bananas Fundraiser”. This inclusive design was also recognized as a Playcore/GameTime National Demonstration Site for Inclusion and Play On. (want to add more?) As Victor Hugo said centuries ago, “nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.”


Our Town, St. Charles – Building Community Begins with Play

St. Charles City School District wanted something extraordinary as they designed their brand new Early Childhood facility. And that is exactly what the community got.

The outdoor play space is equipped with unique inclusive features including Sensory Wave Climber with adaptive switch technology, GameTime Expression Swings®, sensory tables, musical instruments, and even an outdoor classroom. The indoor play space was unique for Cunningham Recreation and Play 4 ALL. A custom miniature version of the Historic Main Street located just a few miles away, Our Town, St. Charles was designed to provide enriching gross motor and dramatic play activities while teaching preschoolers the importance of a community. Children learn and “operate” the town equipped with a firehouse, market, bank, bistro, park, trolley and even a Town Hall that has a voting booth teaching children about the importance of civic responsibility.

Play 4 ALL designed the community engagement program that raised 85% of the entire cost for the space and the accessories.

Gordon Moore Park Inclusive Playground – Alton, IL

Alton Park and Recreation Executive Director, Michael Haynes, was not about to let any hurdle get in his way of bringing the community of Alton its first universally accessible playground. He traveled to Springfield, IL during November 2016 when Play Core, GameTime and Play 4 ALL trained the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on the 7 Principles of Inclusive Design. Quickly after learning the critical difference between what ADA law mandates and the play environments designed for the “whole child” regardless of ability, Michael and his team quickly launched a play campaign.

With help from Cunningham Recreation’s social impact division, Play 4 ALL, the Inclusive Play committee positioned a campaign that attracted large corporate responsibility dollars from Phillips 66 and other community donors.  Additionally, Illinois Parks and Recreation Association granted the project another $125,000 under the GameTime/Playcore Active Play Funding Initiative. Less than a year later, all the funds were raised to build a nature themed, universally designed play space for every child and family. Gordon Moore Park now has a playground 4 ALL ages and abilities where everyone can play together.

“Play 4 ALL gave us direction towards all possible avenues of fundraising in our effort to provide inclusive play to the Alton area. We’ve got nothing but positive feedback and support from the community in our inclusive play venture. Every day I drive by and see the playground full of a wide array of people it reminds me of how important the project was for everyone in the community,” said Michael Haynes, executive director of the Alton Park and Recreation Department.


Danforth Elementary Healing Communities Through Play™ Project – St. Louis, MO

Sheri Schjolberg, Principal of Danforth Elementary knew that the school’s playground was falling into major disrepair. She also knew that the Riverview Gardens school district did not have funds in their budget for a new playground. A committed volunteer saw the local news story covering Play 4 ALL’s work in Ferguson, Missouri and their new Healing Communities Through Play™ initiative. One phone call and all the pieces fell into place. St. Louis City and County police officers stepped up immediately and funds began to come in slated for a new playground. Pleasantly surprised, one St. Louis family gifted $75,000.

The Community Build happened on July 21st, 2017, one of the hottest days of summer. With temps reaching over 104 degrees, over 140 volunteers flooded in to make sure a new playground welcomed the Danforth students back to school the following month. Helping do the heavy lifting, River View Gardens Varsity and Jr. Varsity football team joined the officers and community volunteers. “It’s a day that I will never forget” said an officer that was recently wounded while on duty. “There is so much good in the world”.


Bentley’s All Inclusive Playground Opens in Keokuk, IA

Bentley’s Playground Phase 2 officially opened Saturday, June 24, 2017. The universally accessible play area at Keokuk’s Tolmie Park was dedicated before a crowd of volunteers, donors and local families. Bentley and several other children lined up with their parents for a ribbon cutting ceremony during the program. A moment that was eagerly anticipated for the past 2 years as the Keokuk community pulled together to conduct grass-roots fundraisers.

Bentley’s Playground is named in honor of Bentley McGhghy, who has cerebral palsy. The driving force behind the project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, K-Play which was formed to raise philanthropic funds for the $300,000 project. They hope to continue their mission and develop more inclusive play spaces in the future.

Phase 1 was completed in June 2015 and included an inclusive swing area and music play station. Phase 2 was a much larger undertaking, and features two parallel zip lines, an adaptive merry-go-round, a saucer swing, a multi-level play structure and additional music and sound play components all manufactured by GameTime, a leader in the Inclusive Play movement.
The play equipment was completed by a volunteer playground build in May. McGhghy named Keokuk High School student Tyler Stephenson as the K-Play Volunteer of the Year. Stephenson, who was unable to attend the dedication program, worked from 9 a.m. until everyone else had left all four days of the community build event.

The International Order of Odd Fellows Grand Lodge of Iowa was the largest donor to the project, with contributions totaling over $100,000. Hy-Vee was also a major fundraiser as well and agreed to host a “round-up” Cause Marketing campaign at their local Keokuk location. K-Play board worked very closely with Play 4 ALL Community Resource Director, Victoria Schmitt Babb, to champion this project across the finish line. Victoria helped to identify potential funders and developed strategies and tools to help with the fund development process. She also worked closely with K-Play grant writer, based in St. Louis, MO, who devoted her time to write grants on a continual basis.
“When they say it takes a village, that’s exactly what it takes to successfully complete a large inclusive playground project build. It took the whole Keokuk community,” says Babb.


City of Leawood Opens Universally Accessible Playground – Play 4 ALL Inclusive Play Project

Kicking off summer of 2017, The City of Leawood opened their very first universally accessible playground in City Park that is now a Playcore National Demonstration Site. After a year of planning, designing, and fundraising, a playground designed for all abilities will now provide the opportunity to play for ALL children and parents, particularly those who have disabilities or injuries.

Cunningham Recreation’s Play 4 ALL worked closely with the Leawood Parks Foundation to identify potential funders and coach on development strategies. Major donor, Variety KC, joined the project by becoming the naming sponsor. This playground is Variety’s 4th naming partner sponsor in the Greater Kansas City area.

“The City of Leawood and the Parks Foundation are very dedicated to provide a place for families to play with no barriers including physical barriers, socio-economic and social barriers. ALL are welcome” says Victoria Schmitt Babb, Play 4 ALL Community Resource Director. Gifts supporting the playground came from family foundations, local companies, individuals and groups. It was a true community effort.


Community Renovates Playground in Need of Rejuvenation – Rockford, IL

On June 9, 2017, Play 4 ALL, a division of Cunningham Recreation, accomplished its third Healing Communities Through Play ™ project in Rockford, IL. Together with the Rockford Parks Dept., Rockford PD, County Sheriff’s office, and Sharefest volunteers, a brand new playground was built in Levings Park. Local installer, Custom Playgrounds, generously donated their labor and equipment to prep the land and to supervise the volunteer driven build.

“The Healing Communities playground build was a great success. The project brought together a variety of members of the community to renovate a playground in need of rejuvenation. I’m grateful for the support and assistance from the volunteers, both Sharefest and law enforcement, Custom Playgrounds, GameTime and Cunningham Recreation. We couldn’t have done it without them. Many hands truly do make light work,” says Tom Lind, LA for Rockford Park District.

Law enforcement came out in droves and stayed throughout the day to ensure that the job was complete. Local children could not wait for the remaining safety surfacing to be laid before dangling, sliding and swinging on the play elements. The teaming up of these sectors is paramount to the success of a Healing Communities project. At the end of the day, the playground is only an instrument to something much larger!


Healing Communities Through Play™ – Druid Hills Park: Charlotte, NC

On Wednesday, March 29, 2017 county residents, youth and local leaders joined Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Metro Division, and Cunningham Recreation for the second Healing Communities Through Play™ playground build at Druid Hills Park, 2801 Poinsett St. in Charlotte, NC. More than 100 volunteers worked together; police, youth and residents side by side, to build a playground.

Healing Communities Through Play™ is a new initiative that hopes to rebuild community trust and relations between local residents and law enforcement through building a playground. The program provides opportunities for police, youth, local residents and leaders to interact, communicate, get to know one another and focus on our commonalities rather than our differences. We are hoping this small initiative finds it way throughout the United States and starts to help in mending community relations with local law enforcement. One small step in the right direction. “It’s a small idea, but one that can hopefully change negative perceptions and have a positive impact on our local communities,” says Officer Chelsea Kidder with the CMPD.

Charlotte Healing Communities  Play4all-CLT-9647officer kidder


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