Facility Profile - November 2007
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Tower of Strength

Strong Reach Playground in Bowdon, Ga.

By Emily Tipping

In the meantime, fundraising efforts were paying off. The organization's first fundraiser, a fashion show that involved kids and parents with and without disabilities, raised more than $10,000. "We even got kids from a crisis center involved and they modeled in our show as well," Daniel said. "They were thrilled because they never got to do things like that. One parent of a son with cerebral palsy said, 'That was the first time my child has been on stage when I didn't think people were staring at him.' It really supported what we are trying to do here, which is to create inclusion."

Another fundraiser, a golf tournament, raised more than $25,000. "The kids with special needs helped with the tournament, and a golf instructor for handicapped people came and conducted a clinic on the range, instructing them on how they could overcome some of the obstacles they face due to their disabilities," Daniel said.

The fundraising eventually paid off with $78,000 for a 4,000-square-foot playground including slides, climbers and a game area, with accessible sidewalks and ramps throughout the playground. With 70 percent of the equipment accessible to children with disabilities, the playground creates a feeling of inclusion among kids ages 2 to 12.

"Playgrounds are dreadful if you can't let your child just walk up and play like typical children, and there are a lot of people who do have children with special needs," Daniel said. "This playground is a refreshing site for them. There are ramps and plenty of space, so you don't feel cramped. There's even room for mom to go down the slide with a child."

Strong Reach Playground goes above and beyond the ADA requirements to be more inclusive for children with special needs. The benefits for those kids are enormous, but the playground benefits other children, too. When typical children get to interact with those with special needs, they develop more compassion, tolerance and acceptance, and they learn that interacting with these kids is nothing to fear.

The project set a great example for the community, and Daniel added that it set a good example for their children as well. "You do not have to be the Rotary Club or any other type of club to do something for your community, even if it costs a lot of money," she said. "We're all parents. We have jobs. We have busy lives, and this is something we all made time to work on. People in the community can do something for their community. This whole project has shown me that with faith and diligence, we can do anything."

And there's still more to do, Daniel said. Despite the impressive fundraising efforts, she said the group didn't have enough to cover the $41,000 required for a poured rubber surface. "We put down wood fiber mulch," she said. "It's ADA-accessible, but it's not satisfactory to us."

So the next round of fundraising has begun, and the community is reaching even further to provide a Strong Reach for all area children.


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