Not all parks are accessible to every child, but community organizers saw the need to make at least one space in Stillwater a place where more kids can play.
“We host the Special Olympics every year here in Stillwater. So we were like this needs to have a playground that is accessible to those children and is an inviting community,” fundraiser Cecilia Smith said. “We need to support the Special Olympics.”
Smith was one of many people who went to Strickland Park Friday afternoon to celebrate the grand opening of the PlayAbility Project, a project that outfitted the park with structures and equipment that allows disabled children and others a greater chance to enjoy it.
People of all ages came to celebrate and take part in the festivities and ribbon cutting.
City Manager Norman McNickle invited the community and thanked everyone for showing their support.
“We’re delighted that you all could join us today for the grand opening of the PlayAbility project here in Stillwater, the new and improved playground,” he said.
City Councilor Amy Dzialowski, who championed the project from its infancy, told the crowd this playground was designed to be welcoming to children and adults of all abilities.
“As you look around the park you may notice a theme of circles. Those circles are meant to represent the connection that we hope and the community that we hope is built in this space,” she said.
Angie O’Daniel was at the celebration with her 3-year-old granddaughter Nora Jane.
O’Daniel said she was thankful to finally have a place to take her granddaughter to play, because she could easily navigate the playground equipment.
“I seriously could cry right now, I’ve been tearing up this whole time because she can’t go to a regular playground and feel successful,” O’Daniel said.
She watched as Jane climbed on slides, something she hasn’t been able to do in Stillwater.
“She’s enjoying herself, we don’t have anything here and we were just so excited to have this where she can just come and play without us having to follow her around constantly,” she said.
O’Daniel wasn’t the only person that was thankful for the new playground, Rona Tracey said she has been following this project for a few years now.
“We’re very excited about it. The fact that it has swings that my daughter can use, that it has shade and air conditioned bathrooms that will make it easy for us to use,” Tracey said.
Alex Cutts with Stillwater Group Homes said she was happy the space was large enough to be accessible to those in wheelchairs.
“We will be taking a trip to the park every Saturday,” she said.
Students with Stillwater Makes A Change, who raised money to help make the playground a reality were thankful to see the finished project. Julianna Arndt said Mya’s Promise really caught her eye with how much the staff cared about children and helping kids.
“We had so many helpers and so many friends on this project but honestly, it started with the youth in our community. When the Stillwater High School philanthropy, Stillwater Makes a Change decided to take on this project,” Dzialowski said.
Arndt and Smith said SMAC oversaw more than 100 events for the 2018-2019 school year to raise funds for the playground.
Strickland park was packed before the celebration started, and after the ribbon cutting and playing, the kids enjoyed scheduled activities.
The Stillwater Police Department and Stillwater Fire Department both had booths that gifted items.
SFD also had a remote control fire truck named Freddie that gained traction with little kids ,along with allowing kids to take a picture inside the firetruck.
Chick-fil-A provided chicken sandwiches and brownies to guests, Assistant Hospitality Director Joyce George said the staff at Chick-fil-A just wanted to be involved and show support for the community.
“I feel like this project was just something very easy for the community to get behind. Something I always remember Amy saying is the joy of play is so important for a young person,” Arndt said.“It’s really sad to think about, before this a lot of young kids didn’t get that joy of playing.”