Fundraisers push toward goal for inclusive playground

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Friendship Playground is steadily taking shape, but there’s still a ways to go before construction can begin on the inclusive play-area at Harris Street Park.

Specially-tailored so everyone can enjoy its equipment without regard for any medical, physical or mental limitations, the playground development is spearheaded by Kilgore Chamber of Commerce’s E4 leadership participants in partnership with the City of Kilgore and the Special Abilities Family Fun Event (SAFFE) Day.

So far, says Stacey Cole, the leadership team is about one-third of the way to its goal: from an estimated price tag of $175,000, the E4 group – working to ‘Embark, Enlighten, Empower and Engage’ – has a fundraising target between $75,000 and $100,000.

“In-hand we have $1,100. In pledges, we have $12,201. We have another verbal pledge of $20,000,” Cole said. “With pledges and money in-hand, we have $33,000 approximately.

“We’re getting there, we’re working on it. Still a lot of work to do, but I’m pretty happy with the amount of donations we’ve received and the pledges we’ve received.”

The group had a planned a community update at the park Tuesday evening but canceled due to inclement weather. They’ll reschedule the event soon and, in the meantime, are on the lookout for additional contributions.

The new setup at Harris Street Park will include a wide variety of inclusive elements: from swings designed for individuals in wheelchairs to a fully-accessible two-story ‘treehouse’ structure. There will be sensory toys as well, each piece of equipment specially picked to make Friendship Playground a welcoming place for anyone regardless of mobility restrictions or learning disabilities.

“No donation is too small,” Cole emphasized, eager for everything from $10 personal contributions to $10,000 cornerstone donations: “We’re happy to have corporate sponsors.”

E4 team members are circulating sponsorship information as well as the efforts’ website (find it via tinyurl.com/FriendshipPlayground) and Facebook page (“Friendship Playground At Harris Street Park”) to streamline the fundraising effort.

“They’re very passionate about it. They believe in it,” Cole said. “We have a lot of literature about it. We try to be professional and organize and talk to (donors) about what it’s going to mean for our community.”

The Friendship Playground team received some great feedback during SAFFE Day 2018, she added. One of the many visitors to the Commerce Street event was an older woman using a mobility scooter.

Visiting the E4 team’s booth and looking over the effort’s promotional materials, the woman was excited at the thought of an inclusive playground: a place she could get on the equipment and play with her grandchildren.

“People don’t realize, it’s not only for the kids with mobility or medical or any kind of physical limitations,” Cole said, “but also for the adults with limitations to be able to play alongside them.

“Our community doesn’t have anything like this,” but SAFFE Day is already fueling a sense of togetherness for people of all abilities: “That’s already brought awareness to our community, and this is a way to take that even further.”

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