Rachel Kopfler, president of the Mason Parks and Recreation Foundation, noticed something special as her triplets were growing up together: even though one of them was born with a spinal cord defect, they all played really well together.
“When he was born, the doctors weren’t exactly sure what he’d be able to do,” Kopfler says. “He really exceeded expectations of doctors and therapists. Part of why he was able to do so well is that he had two typical siblings the exact same age who he was able to model from every day. He found other ways for his body to do those same things.”
The Mason Parks and Recreation Foundation is working toward an exciting opportunity for Mason and Deerfield Township children with special needs and typical children to play alongside each other at the Common Ground Playground. Located on a 34-acre lot near U.S. 42 and Snider Road, the new development will include features that make it more accessible than other playgrounds, while still being safe and exciting for all kinds of children.
Some features, like fencing that keeps children from running too far from caregivers and ramps that allow all children access to play equipment, may seem simple, but they actually make the playground quite groundbreaking. The safety measures protect and encourage children to explore, both typical and those with special needs.
Inclusive playgrounds help children develop various essential motor skills, but a large part of the benefit comes from socialization.
“Getting typical children playing side-by-side with children with special needs helps them both benefit,” Kopfler says.
The project has been designed in six phases, and fundraising is still taking place for phases four and five: the parking lot and the shelter house that will hold restrooms. The City of Mason has offered a matching grant this year for the second time, matching each dollar raised up to $300,000.
There are many ways that you can contribute to the Common Ground Playground through donations online and by participation in upcoming Mason events. Local races, including the Mason Triumphant Triathlon, are donating proceeds to the playground this year. A portion of food and beverages sales at the Music in Mason concert series also contribute to the fund. If you or your organization would like to donate, visit the Mason Parks & Recreation Foundation website and click “Give.” MasonParksFoundation.org
COMMON GROUND FEATURES
Built with both typical children and those with special needs in mind, the Common Ground Playground will feature numerous innovative design elements and activities to attract all children.
1. Cozy Dome
The Cozy Dome offers multiple developmental options for children. It’s a brightly-colored plastic dome with handholds and holes, allowing children to climb around the outside without getting too high off the ground. A small hole in the front allows a child to climb inside to take a break from socializing; children experiencing sensory processing disorders sometimes need quiet time to themselves.
The Sway-Fun is a large, durable piece of equipment that allows children to rock back and forth. The equipment is large enough for two wheelchairs and is equipped with seats for other children to play. It has a sturdy table with handholds so that everyone can get the device moving together, giggling and enjoying the feeling of bouncing gently back and forth.
3. Side-by-Side Zipline
A zipline feature allows children to experience the rush of moving along the track while either on an open seat or in a more secure strapped-in seat. Thus, if children of different abilities want to play on the zipline together, they can do so at the same time.