Giving Disabled Children A Specially Designed Playground - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

04/24/03 - Tyler

Giving Disabled Children A Specially Designed Playground

For many East Texas children, their favorite time at school is recess, running and jumping on playground equipment. But what if your child wasn't able to walk or run or just needed a little extra help?

The Tyler Downtown Rotary Club is making sure children with disabilities enjoy recess just as much as their fellow students. No matter their challenges, these students at St Louis School in Tyler make the most out of recess. "I like to run fast and beat them boys," says Katie Scott a student at the school. "I like playing basketball on the goal," adds another, Cameron Whitaker. And Austin Bradley says, "I like riding the bike." They are able to enjoy their time outside thanks to this specifically designed playground equipment for disabled children. "It's a great place for our students."

It was donated by the Downtown Rotary Club in Tyler. The club's President Billy Hibbs says, "We want to be able to do some very needed enhancements out here to enable these students to enjoy a little better piece of life." The students are very pleased with their playground. "It looks very nice. I sure enough like it," says Cameron. St Louis School Principal Karyn Hacker says, "We have a few students in wheelchairs that are not able to walk but with the three wheel trick on the playground they can get around just like anybody else. It makes them feel just like their other classmates that are able to walk. It also provides a safe place for them to ride and get exercise."

Their time spent outside also helps them once they're back inside. Hacker says "For some of our students who are autistic, the exercise actually helps them to calm down and focus on the work jobs in the classrooms." This playground also meets some of the students sensory needs with specially designed flower beds. One attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, another includes herbs and textures for the students to touch and smell. They are all built at eye level for children in wheelchairs.

This playground was completed in 2000, but the Rotary Club's interest in St Louis School dates more than 8 decades." It goes back really to when we first opened back in the 1920's when DK Caldwell came over here at Christmas time and gave each one of the students a silver dollar and that lead to larger and certainly much more ambitious projects," explains Hibbs. Speaking of ambitious projects, the Downtown Rotary Club is about to begin phase II at St Louis School making it even better. "One thing we wanted to add was a grove of trees with benches and a shady area for our more severe students to watch everything," Hacker says.

There will also be additional playground equipment, for instance, making it easier for students to retrieve a basketball. "Can I show you again how I can make a basket?" asks Austin. It's small tasks like that, that lead to big accomplishments, making these students proud. "Without the Rotary Club this would not be possible," says Hacker.

In order to help pay for Phase II, which will cost $45,000, the Tyler Downtown Rotary Club is starting an annual Chili Cook Off. It takes place Saturday, April 26th in the parking lot of Unclaimed Furniture at 236 South Broadway Avenue in Tyler. You can stop and get yourself a bowl of chili from 11:00 am.- 6:00 for $5.00. There will also be a band entertaining the crowd. Among the Chili Cook Off judges are Channel 7's Mark Scirto and Michael Coleman.

Gillian Sheridan reporting.

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