Child Development Center working toward new inclusive playground

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Concept art for Phase I of the Cullman County Child Development Center’s inclusive playground. (Image courtesy CDC)

VINEMONT – The Cullman County Child Development Center (CDC) began planning for a major playground renovation more than two years ago.  The current playground is short on equipment accessible for children of all abilities, and on equipment designed to give students a sensory experience. Principal Chris Chambers has planned a project that will make the CDC playground more accessible, and provide a wide spectrum of special needs students with activities geared toward them. 

When the project first got underway, Chambers told The Tribune, “We're looking at pieces of equipment that'll be specially designed for kids, but also kids can just enjoy going and playing on, just like they would at any school.  Some pieces are going to be specially designed to meet different needs, so it's going to be a lot more inclusive. We need the equipment to meet that inclusive part. Once we get everything in place, it's going to meet the basic adapted physical education needs, hopefully, and sensory needs of students with severe needs, occupational therapy needs, physical therapy needs and things like that.  Our goal is to make it a public-use playground in the future. When we get our big project finished one day, it'll be a place where kids can come and have birthday parties, special needs adults can come. A lot of places are not accessible; we've got very few pieces of equipment in the county that are accessible, so we're trying to make it accessible for our kids, but also for use in the community as well.”

The playground’s equipment will be produced and installed by Fort Payne-based GameTime, and is expected to cost $441,100.

The Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE) and CDC recently began an online campaign through crowdfunding resource LeanStream.  

On the campaign page, Chambers explained: “This playground will meet the needs of one hundred fifty six special needs students as well as the surrounding community that lack a space for typical and special needs children to play, receive services, or gather socially.  The playground will be available for reservations after hours to be used for families with typical or special needs children. A new safe, and accessible play space is needed in our community to serve students with disabilities in Cullman County.

“Our current population is approximately 82,000.  Of this number the number of children under the age of 21 with a disability is around 12.1 percent. According to the Alabama State Department of Education and the Individuals with Disabilities Act we have a high prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Our community has one park that is accessible to children and young adults with disabilities and it belongs to Cullman City Parks & Recreation. We need a space that the community can use for a day at the park, birthday parties or family gatherings. Our current playground is over 18 years old and has not been renovated to meet our growing needs.

“With your help we will be able to use our resources to apply for matching grants, fund phases of the project, or sponsor a particular piece of equipment in one of the five main areas or phases. Phase I $118,500, Phase II $146,600, Phase III $68,000, Phase IV $61,000, Phase V $47,000. Each phase or area is designed to address specific needs for children with disabilities, so they are able to enjoy what typical children their age enjoy. The play space will contain optimal layouts for ground level components to foster interaction and socialization among children of ages and abilities. We have collaborated with local businesses and organizations to make this dream become a reality. Stakeholders will be able to select phases or individual parts of the playground they would like to sponsor. Businesses, individuals, and organizations that sponsor any phase or area of the playground will have a marker to recognize their sponsorship.”

Halfway there

Of the estimated $118,500 cost of Phase I, the CDC is a little more than halfway, at around $60,000.  In January, the CDC received $12,000 from the Cullman County Community Development Commission, and Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Fairview helped secure a $35,000 grant from the Alabama State Legislature.  According to Chambers, the Town of South Vinemont has agreed to assist with demolition and excavation for Phase I. The rest has come from individual donations from the community. Among contributors have been several of the CDC’s own staff.

Said Chambers, “I can’t say enough for the faculty and staff here and plus (Superintendent) Dr. (Shane) Barnette and the (Cullman County) Board of Education.  They went above and beyond to get this website up and running, and making this a featured need. When you go to (the website), you’ll see it says ‘featured need.’  And Dr. Barnette and our board, along with our CFO, they have done a great job of getting this up and going. Now we’ve got to promote it and let people see the need we have.

“We just want to make a difference.  That’s all we want to do. And my goal is to leave it better than I found it.”

Current plans have Phase I construction beginning this summer.

Get involved

If you are interested in helping out, visit www.leanstreamrp.com/projects/view/355 or contact the CDC at 256-739-0486.

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