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.”
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Over the past three years, six communities participated in the Let’s Go! South Carolina initiative, implementing strategies across multiple sectors to increase access to healthy foods and physical activity. Coalition members from each of the six communities – Anderson, Barnwell, Hampton, Kershaw, Laurens, and York counties – gathered recently to learn about their impact and to celebrate a job well done.
“We are so proud of the impact the Let’s Go! SC project has had over the past three years,” said Beth Franco, executive director of Eat Smart Move More South Carolina. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and leadership from these six coalitions.”
The Let’s Go! SC evaluation team spent a rigorous amount of time collecting data on the community projects to determine impact. The six communities had an impressive collective impact:
- $1.3 million leveraged through grants, donations, and matched funds
- 36,327 students have access to healthier school environments due to partnerships with Alliance for a Healthier Generation
- 24,736 SNAP recipients in three counties now have access to fresh produce at farmers’ markets
- 43,985 people live within a mile of a park or path enhanced by a coalition
- 17 parks, playgrounds, and trails were improved
- 75+ youth were trained through the HYPE project
Evaluators also determined individual community impacts, which can be found here.
“Community work can be hard,” said Hannah Walters, senior project manager at ESMMSC. “Change always takes longer than we want or expect. But, the Let’s Go project has shown us just how rewarding and impactful incremental changes can be in a community. Whether it’s bringing a new partner to the table or getting a new trail installed in your community, we know that success comes in all shapes and sizes.”
The Let’s Go! South Carolina Initiative was funded by the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
Published in the Chronicle-Independent
November 10, 2017
Tall Longleaf pines stood silent guard as the first official hikers took to the Sweet Gum Trail in Camden on Tuesday afternoon. About 50 people participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the official opening of the 2/3-mile trail that now connects Scott and Woodward parks.
Tuesday’s ceremony took place at the Woodward Park trail head. Visitors entering the park from Chestnut Ferry Road just off West DeKalb Street can make a right turn after passing the park’s tennis courts and find the trail head next to a baseball field at the end of the road.
The 10-foot wide, paved trail winds through woods behind Woodward’s baseball fields, running just a few feet away from the railroad that cuts through the city near West DeKalb Street’s Donald Holland Bridge over the tracks. The Amtrak station can be seen through the trees at one point. The trail continues around behind the park before coming to a point where it heads straight toward Scott Park off Battleship Road.
That trail head meets Scott Park’s unpaved walking/running track. Hikers, runners and bikers wanting to use the Sweet Gum Trail from Scott Park will need to make their way nearly half-way around the track to meet the trail.
City Manager Mel Pearson welcomed guests to the short ceremony saying he knew the track was wide enough to accommodate both walkers and bikers at the same time.
“I know that because a young lady on a bicycle lapped us five times the other day while we got from one end to the other and I think there were a couple of walkers who lapped us also,” Pearson said.
Pearson said the Sweet Gum Trail marks the completion of Camden and Kershaw County’s first steps in creating a truly county-wide trail system connecting other trails and parks across the county.
“This is the first of that county wide plan. Now, I don’t want you to underestimate Kendall Park; it’s a very nice, half-mile trail over there. It’s a rubberized surface, but this trail has a lot of potential to be connected to other trails in the parks and we’re excited about the beginning here,” he said.
Pam Spivey, of Eat Smart Move More Kershaw County (ESMMKC), ebulliently declared Tuesday’s ribbon cutting a “dream in the making for years.”
“(We) used $65,000 in grant funding to hire all the planning to put together a county-wide pedestrian greenways plan,” Spivey said. “This plan was adopted by our city government and county government and because of that, decisions around existing upgrades and new construction … have allowances for our pedestrians, our parks, our streets. All these things are worked out before these projects begin.”
Spivey said the collaboration between ESMMKC, the city and county is why there is now an “amazing” opportunity.
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