By Laura McKenzie
Talyah Washington, 6, and King Rivera, 7, may not have understood what the blue ribbon was for to officially open an “all-inclusive” playground last week. They just wanted to have fun.
They also may not have realized that the person who was the instigator for the playground is an 8-year-old little girl with big dreams.
Talyah was born with Down Syndrome. King suffered a traumatic brain injury four years ago in a car accident. Despite cognitive and motor skill challenges, both are children who love to play.
The playground located at Lemon Park in Barnwell started with a question raised by Izzy Brandt to her parents, Stephanie and Shaun Brandt. “I took her to a Buddy Walk about two years ago. It’s a fundraising walk for kids with special needs,” Stephanie said. That experience made an impression on young Izzy who also has made friends with one special needs child.
Then, one day about a year ago they were at Lemon Park and Izzy noted that there wasn’t any playground equipment for kids with special needs. “They want to play too,” she told her mom.
Izzy and Stephanie contacted Pam Davis, director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Barnwell. Davis thought about the idea and decided to write a grant proposal to the S.C. Parks and Recreation Department (PARD).
She was notified that a grant for $12,000 was approved “but that was not enough for this type of playground.”
Axis 1 came to the rescue with a $10,000 grant through the Eat Smart, Move More Program.
The partnership resulted in the purchase and installation of a multi-level climber, “Cozy Cocoon”, seesaw, congos, and cabassa.
“The multi-level climber is where kids of all abilities can play,” explained Davis. “It helps improve motor skills, coordination, strength, and dexterity. This leads to self-achievement and greater self-esteem.”