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Park Meadows School unveils accessible and all-inclusive playground

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Park Meadows School unveils accessible and all-inclusive playground
Through community support and the hard work of students, a Lethbridge school now has a new accessible and all-inclusive playground. Matt Battochio reports – Jun 26, 2018

Dozens of students swarmed their new playground Tuesday afternoon as Park Meadows Elementary School unveiled its new fully accessible play structure.

The all-inclusive playground wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for a former student.

“Originally one student came to the former principal… ‘I have this idea. I have this vision. I want to play with all my friends, not just those that can walk around like I do, but I want to play with all my friends,’” principal Mark Blankenstyn said. “Maybe they’re in a wheelchair or walk a little bit different. The whole idea of inclusivity and accessibility came right from the beginning.”

Two years later, the idea has become a reality: kids of all mobilities sharing time together on the playground.

Getting to the finished product wasn’t easy though; the project cost $400,000 and the students were determined to help.

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“Through the (government) grants and literally through kids’ piggy banks and selling their art projects in hallways, selling cookies, they thought: ‘Let’s do it,’” Blankenstyn said. “So of the $400,000, about $100,000 was raised through kids and local sponsorship and cash.”

It was a special day for the Bitternose family, as Park Meadows Grade 2 student Braxton took to the playground in his wheelchair to spend time with his fellow classmates.

“It’s exciting seeing him smile and watching him be a part of it with the other kids,” Braxton’s mother Amanda said. “It’s been a struggle with him because he can’t go on and play like a regular child. But now he’s involved more than ever.”

Park Meadows staff believe the end result shows there are no limits to what young minds are capable of accomplishing.

“This gives them proof that I can do anything,” Learning Support teacher Colleen Hamilton said. “No matter how old I am, I don’t have to wait until I’m an adult to do something pretty darn amazing.”

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