Inclusive Park reaches funding goal

April 5th, 2018

By Joseph Slacian | The Paper of Wabash County

The people of Wabash County stepped up once again.

This time, they helped the city’s Inclusive Park Committee reach its goal of raising $50,000 in 50 days. Doing so qualified the committee to receive a $50,000 matching grant from the state’s patronicity grant.

Committee co-chair Shelly Myers announced the success with her son, Cason, in a video posted Wednesday, March 28, on the It’s More Than a Playground Facebook page.

The drive’s success helped the committee reach its $1.7 million goal for the park, which will be located on South Carroll Street, just south of the current John Drook Skate Park.

The Inclusive Playground is designed “to intentionally brings people of all abilities and all ages together allowing them the freedom to play, explore, imagine, and create without limitations,” according to the committee’s Facebook page. “This freedom opens the door to understanding and creates the opportunity for kids to look beyond the obvious, to look beyond abilities or disabilities, and to experience the world of play equally. The inclusive play experience gives kids of all abilities the chance to interact and understand each other in a new way and their lives and our community will be be changed because of it.”

The playground was originally part of the city’s 2014 Stellar Community Grant Program. However, it was removed from the plans when it was learned the state had no programs to fund such projects. It was later reinserted when the Office of Community and Rural Affairs allocated funds for the project.

Locally, the committee began fundraising in 2016.

“We received our very first donation in May of 2016,” Myers told The Paper of Wabash County. “Today our list of donors is twelve pages long. Do you know what that means? We didn’t just go to big companies and wealthy families asking for large donations. We reached out to every person that we could possibly connect with, both in this community and outside of this community, and we offered them the opportunity to be a part of this project. And they did it.

“They came to our events. They held fundraisers on our behalf. They bought tiles on our donor wall. They sponsored equipment. They bought T-shirts. They donated to our Patronicity $50K in 50 Days campaign. They sent spare change with their children to school for the schools’ ‘Pennies for Play’ campaigns.

“They believed in what we were doing and they gave what they could, and they are the reason this playground is going to become a reality.”

The Pennies for Playground fundraiser that took place at the local schools raised more than $10,000 for the campaign. Wabash Park Superintendent Adam Hall is co-chair of the Inclusive Park Committee.

“The playground will be a great addition to the parks department,” he told The Paper. “But as the saying goes, ‘It’s more than a playground.’ This playground is a symbol of how great the people are in our community.

“There are a lot of people that are dedicated to the city and everything they gave mattered, whether it be $5 or $50,000. To be able to get anything is a sign of how great the people are in the City of Wabash and how much they care about getting an Inclusive Playground. They are the reasons why years of hard work, dedication, hopes and prayers are going to bring this playground to Wabash.”

Myers has been a part of the effort since it first began. Hall joined the committee after becoming park superintendent in 2016.

“This has absolutely been the most humbling experience of my life,” Myers said. “When this was just an idea we had no clue how we were going to make it happen, but we knew that no matter what, we would make it happen.

“Now, here we are, not quite four years from the time that it was just an idea, and we are ready to begin construction. Wabash is going to have a playground that rivals some of the best inclusive playgrounds in the country. Our committee dedicated countless hours to ensure this and we cannot wait until people have the opportunity to play and experience this.”

A number of fundraisers took place to help raise money during the campaign. Local schools had a “Pennies for the Park” contest, while the Wabash Knights of Columbus raised more than $880 for the project during a bingo fundraiser.

Before work on the site can begin, the city needs to have a construction contract signed. That could happen in the next couple of weeks, Myers said.

Once signed, work will likely begin about 30 days later.

“We will have a groundbreaking ceremony before that,” she said, noting the exact date has not yet been established. Completion date is expected sometime this fall.

“We initially had a target completion date of August, but we’ve made a few changes in an effort to see some cost savings, so that delayed the start a bit,” Myers said. “We still hope to have this completed this fall.”

The patronicity campaign ended with donations of $51,700, not including the matching funds.

“We just want to extend our sincerest thanks to everyone who donated and otherwise supported us through our fundraising efforts,” Myers said. “We so appreciate that you saw the value in this project and what it will do for this community.”