HICKMAN – During a beautiful 70 degree afternoon on Nov. 6, Tyson Reinboth and Joslyn Grotrian and their mothers came out to the Hickman City Park to discuss the Accessible Playground campaign.
From a picnic table under the shade of the concession stand, Jennifer Reinboth and Monique Grotrian reflected upon the opportunities for their children to play with the other children in the park.
Their children – Tyson Reinboth, a third-grader at Norris, has cerebral palsy and needs a walker or wheelchair, and Joslyn Grotrian, a fourth-grader at Norris, has Rett Syndrome and uses a wheelchair – want to play just like any other child who visits a playground.
“There is a swing that is larger with netting, that is an accessible feature, but the swing set has wood chips all the way around it, so it makes it extremely hard with a walker or wheelchair to get to it,” Reinboth said. “The materials are common in playgrounds, but until you have a child with special needs or walk a day in our shoes you don’t realize all the little challenges.”
It wasn’t until a community survey was conducted recently to see what the community of Hickman’s major needs and wants were that it came to light that there were several other families who had these same concerns and hopes for more accessible opportunities in Hickman.
“In the write-in portion of the survey, they took the time to write about the lack of accessible options offered in Hickman,” said Chelsea Hood Reese, who is Vice President of the Hickman Area Community Foundation Fund. “We saw this as significant and something we wanted to respond to.”
Since receiving the survey results, the Hickman City Council and Hickman Area Community Foundation Fund have realized that the City could do more for families who have children with varying abilities and made it an immediate priority.
They enlisted the help of Tyson and Joslyn to pick out accessible equipment that they would like to see in a new section of the Hickman City Park based on their own abilities and interests.
“It went from looking at one swing that a wheelchair could fit into, to a whole new addition to be merged in with the existing park,” Hood Reese said.
The HACFF has already secured an anonymous donor who will match donations up to $30,000 to get this project going, said Hood Reese, who is the point person on this project.
“We are hoping to leverage that amount to attract additional donors and possibly matching grants,” Hood Reese said.
The total cost of equipment and installation is estimated at $180,000, but it could be done in two phases as funds become available.
“At the Oct. 26 meeting, the City Council voted to pledge space for the main park section and to do the installation of the equipment once we get the fundraising completed,” Hood Reese said. “Beyond this project, we would like to be able to retrofit other area playgrounds with an accessible swing later on so there is something in all the parks.”
The Grotrian family was not included in the original survey since they now live on an acreage outside of Firth in a home they custom built to meet some of Joslyn’s special needs. “I didn’t think anything like this would ever happen in Hickman. I know the cost of equipment and understand that’s it’s a small town. We are grateful to have this opportunity so close to home.”
These two moms, their children and other families are now at the center of helping Hickman add an accessible playground to the city park.
“What makes this park so special is that we went to the kids and asked them to make a wish list of what would be helpful and then prioritize that list,” Hood Reese said. “This is the children’s park. Designed for them, by them.”
Some of the items on the list include a cruiser, freedom zip line with a bucket seat, play system, ramps, rocker teeter totter and play wall with interactive panels.
“It will also have serenity spaces for children with sensory processing differences,” Hood Reese said. “This would create a muffled space where they can play or calm down.”
Reinboth, an elementary special education teacher, made it clear that this equipment wouldn’t just be beneficial for people with special needs but also for all children. “Parallel play is important for every child’s development.”
“We want them to be able to play with other kids and not be excluded,” Reinboth said. “That’s the whole idea behind an inclusive playground.”
Reinboth added, “We travel several hours now to be able to go to parks like what Hickman is proposing.”
Grotrian and Reinboth both feel that this new park will make Hickman a destination for families with special needs.
“We will do anything for our kids,” Grotrian said. “We just want our kids to have the same opportunities as other kids their age, even if that means a long road trip.”
Norfolk, Sioux City, Gretna and York were some of the playgrounds they mentioned. York recently raised over a million dollars for a new accessible playground.
On Saturday, the HACFF held its third Annual Toy Swap & Donation, where freewill cash donations were accepted and put toward the park addition.
A donor recognition wall was also unveiled by the HACFF at the event and posted to social media on Sunday. Donors can choose their contribution level, which includes Friend ($200 to $499), Advocate ($500-$999), Partner ($1,000-$4,999), Leader ($5,000-$9,999), Champion ($10,000-$24,999), Visionary ($25,000-$49,999) and Legacy ($50,000+). To view more information about the project or to donate, visit HickmanCommunityFund.org/Playground.
“Our goal is to get the funds raised and be able to start in the spring of 2022,” Hood Reese said. “We recognize this is a very aggressive goal. This is a worthwhile cause, and one that the community can do for all of its kids.”
“It speaks volumes when a community can recognize the needs of its youngest population and make it a great place to live during the short time that they are young.”
The Reinboths, Grotrians and other families like them hope the community will rise up to meet the fundraising goals so that everyone can enjoy the new accessible playground addition in the Hickman Park with their children this summer.
“I really would like to be able to play with my friends,” said Tyson Reinboth. “I am excited to ride the zipline!”