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Gibson Park, ideal home for accessible playground

A playground for kids of all abilities is likely to make its home at Gibson Park in Elmira. If all goes well, construction should begin this spring on the facility, the goal of the charitable organization known as Kate’s Kause.
Originally shooting to raise $250,000 over five years, the group found considerable public support, collecting $265,000 in just 15 months. Given the response, the goal is now $500,000, which would allow for a larger facility, including a splash pad.

Woolwich Township, which will provide the space for the play park, launched a community consultation process to get the ball rolling immediately after discussing the plan at a council meeting Tuesday night.
While the township had it in mind to build the playground and splash pad adjacent to Lions Hall, near the Woolwich Memorial Centre, that site was deemed unsuitable due to space constraints and the lack of tree cover for shade, director of recreation and facilities Karen Makela told councillors. Gibson Park, however, provides the needed room, tree cover and some natural elements that make it ideal.
The WMC location remains on option for a skateboard park to be discussed in next year’s budget.

The mother of Kate, a three-year-old girl with Angelman Syndrome, a rare neurogenetic disorder, Kelly Meissner said she hopes to see work on the playground begin in the spring now that funding is in place. Two of the grants Kate’s Kause received had time limits attached to them: the recently receive $60,000 grant from Aviva Insurance has to be put to use by year’s end, while $25,000 from The Keg has a June deadline.
With the current budget, work can proceed on the playground, she said, adding fundraising will continue for the splash pad.

“We’re really excited about all of the possibilities coming out of here,” she said of the process, noting the project would be staged.
The local group is working with California-based non-profit Shane’s Inspiration, which has helped build a series of universally accessible playgrounds. The goal is to provide a common area for kids of all abilities to do what kids do best: play.

Her presentation Feb. 7 included a short video about Shane’s Inspiration and the work it does. The organization will be providing some $50,000 of in-kind support, including the services of a landscape architect and outreach support to bring the message to the public such as talking with students at area schools.
Plans for the park received a hearty welcome from councillors.

“I love the idea that we can get all the kids – of all abilities – integrated into one place,” said Coun. Julie-Anne Herteis.

As well, Coun. Allan Poffenroth suggested the township look at integrating accessibility elements into all future plans for playgrounds in the township.

Kate was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, a neurological disease affecting some one in 15,000 people, characterized by a severe global developmental delay. People with AS can have little or no verbal skills, poor gross and fine motor skills, and possible seizure and sleep disorders. However, Angels do have a unique characteristic: they have a happy, pleasant demeanor with a wonderful smile and contagious laughter.

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