“Play is an important part of a kid’s life, and when you have a child with a disability, you want them to be included.” Such was Kelly Meissner’s rationale for starting up Kate’s Place for Everyone, the accessible playground that opened last year in Elmira’s Gibson Park. Now, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris will present her with a grant from the Ontario Trillium grant to fund an expansion.
“It’s about kids being able to be kids, and not having the barriers that they have to go through each and every day,” said Harris, who will present the $149,000 Trillium cheque to Meissner on April 27, 12:30 p.m. at the playground.Kelly Meissner, K-W Oktoberfest’s 2011 Woman of the Year and a 2012 Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal-winner, conceived of “Kate’s Kause” in 2010, not long after her daughter Kate (now almost 4 years old) was diagnosed with Angleman syndrome. The rare neurological disorder (which strikes approximately one in 15,000) is marked by low verbal skills and slow development of motor skills.
“The earlier you can get kids included, the better,” said Meissner. “Kate goes to a preschool in Elmira that’s a co-op, so she has good exposure to other kids, but the best thing for kids is to play. That’s one of the best ways to integrate her.”
- Advertisement -
After joining forces with the Elmira Kiwanis Club in 2011, Kate’s Kause was able to quickly raise $300,000 from the community to build the playground, which opened in July 2012. The Trillium grant will help cover two new features: a sensory wall – with artificial tree branches, animals, rocks, bugs, fossils, etc. – for children with vision problems, as well as a “green gym” with additional activities.
An order has already been placed for the materials for the sensory wall, which Meissner estimates will take around three months to build, with an eye set on the July long weekend for completion.
Since opening the playground, Meissner has observerd a marked change in her daughter’s life.
“Her development has just soared. Because she sees the kids playing, she’s walking earlier than the doctors expected, and it’s been unbelievable for her social development.”
Added Harris, “At Kate’s Kause playground, they truly allow for kids with special needs to just be kids, and I think that the Ontario Trillium Grant is meant for projects just like this.”
Kate’s Kause’s next fundraising event will be the Beautiful Me Fashion Show, presented by Guys & Dolls Salon & Spa, on Sunday, May 5, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. The event will also include a silent auction. Tickets are $20 at the door, or can be reserved at 519-669-8234.