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Airdrie's first inclusive playground will open next month

Airdrie's first inclusive playground will be assembled on May 24 and 25 and provide a safe playing space for kids with mobility and sensory challenges.

In one month, Kayla McPhail and her son Bronson, who has cerebral palsy, will be playing on Airdrie’s first inclusive playground in Bayside Rise.

McPhail, together with Shelby Perrotta, spearheaded the playground project over a year ago.

“It means a lot to us as a family,” McPhail said, adding her three children will all be able to play together. “It means that Bronson and others like him will have more play options at this playground as other playgrounds only have a ramp to get onto the play structure and then nothing to do on it.”

She added that many playgrounds also make it difficult for people with mobility issues to get around as the terrain is often filled with rocks or wood chips. This new playground will have rubber surfacing so wheelchair users can easily roll on.

“It's a first for Airdrie for a playground like this, and hopefully it won't be the last,” McPhail said.

She hopes this project will raise the standard of inclusion in the community of Airdrie.

While her son is non verbal, McPhail said he gets a lot of joy from going to inclusive playgrounds instead of just watching on the sidelines.

“There's a few parks in our area that his sisters can play at and then he just sits in his wheelchair,” McPhail said, adding they often play along the paths. “He wants to be included and involved just like any other kid.”

The inclusive playground will be assembled on May 24 and 25.

Many residents will benefit from the new playground, including kids with mobility issues, sensory issues, or even elderly individuals playing with their grandchildren.

“Our goal would be any new playground structures going up should be accessible and inclusive,” McPhail said, adding that especially accessible terrain materials should be considered.

The old playground was torn down before winter with the intent of building the new playground last fall. Unfortunately, the project was delayed due to the discovery of a natural spring under the playground site.

The spring has since been taken care of and the structure is back on track.

“In hindsight, finding it now is better than having a playground and running into issues and then having to tear down the already-built playground,” McPhail said.

The City of Airdrie contributed $85,000, while McPhail and Perrotta fundraised $104,000 for the playground. Children’s Charity Variety also helped significantly with fundraising.

McPhail said her family has used Variety playgrounds before in Calgary but are happy they no longer have to leave the city to use a playground. 

When McPhail reached out to Variety, Airdrie wasn’t yet on their list for a playground. After several meetings with the City of Airdrie, the project came to life.

With the help of numerous fundraisers including a comedy night, Boston Pizza serving nights, and a golf fundraiser, they raised enough money to build the playground.

“Shelby and myself, we went around to a lot of local businesses,” McPhail said, adding many local businesses contributed to the project.

McPhail and Perrotta, who has worked with Bronson from a young age, hit the ground hard and fast. McPhail said the fulfillment has been amazing.

“It's pretty amazing that we can do something for a city of Airdrie like this and just to [raise] the awareness,” McPhail said.

Masha Scheele

About the Author: Masha Scheele

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