McALESTER, Okla. -- The opening of a new playground is cause for celebration because the equipment now makes it possible for every child in town to join in the fun.
A team of 45 volunteers finished building the all-inclusive playground last week at Chadick Park in McAlester. A group called No Limits Playground formed to design the playground so that children with mobility issues could access and play on it with their friends.
"We want everybody to play together, and not just the children," Robby Rivers with No Limits Playground said. "Even adults with disabilities, we'd like them to get up there and participate with their children and their grandchildren."
The playground includes a special, spongy ground cover that makes it easier for those in wheelchairs, walkers or crutches to get around. The ramps onto the equipment are also flush with the ground so that people can get onto everything seamlessly.
"We hope it's an eye-opener for everybody to realize we need to include everybody," Rivers said. "We want everybody to have the same opportunities to play and have fun."
The idea to build this playground came after Rivers saw a social media post from a local mother, Kendall Byrd. She shared some of her frustrations about a lack of amenities for her son, Branson, who has cerebral palsy and is bound to a wheelchair.
"I went on a rant on Facebook about how there is nothing in this town for children with disabilities," Byrd said.
Private donations helped fund the project along with a major grant from the Puterbaugh Foundation and a contribution from the city of McAlester. By using volunteers to build the playground, the project saved $30,000 in labor costs, Rivers estimates.
Byrd and her family went to the playground this week, and she could not hold back tears seeing her smiling son make his way through a playground for the first time in his motorized wheelchair.
"I know more kids than Branson want to play," Byrd said. "I know they don't want to sit on the sidelines anymore, so it'll be wonderful."
Now that the playground in McAlester is complete, people from another community contacted the organizers recently to learn about building one in their area.