Additional Funds Needed to Make Harmony Park a Reality

 The proposed design for Harmony Park includes a merry-go-round with high-back molded seats and other inclusive playground equipment. (Image Credit: Harmony Park Project.)

The proposed design for Harmony Park includes a merry-go-round with high-back molded seats and other inclusive playground equipment. (Image Credit: Harmony Park Project.)

A project that would encourage children of all abilities to play together needs the community to chip in to make the vision a reality.

The Harmony Park Project would transform Rollingbrook Park in Bloomington with new inclusive playground equipment designed to accommodate children and adults with disabilities.

Project leader Corin Chapman said while the project has received a positive response from corporate sponsors, “to actually make this work we need individual contributions.”

Chapman's son Max has a rare genetic disorder that limits his speech, hearing, vision and mobility. She started the Max’s Miles Foundation with her husband to encourage children with disabilities to pursue greater mobility.

Through her work, Chapman met others in the community who felt the need for an inclusive playground in Bloomington-Normal. Chapman said the nearest fully inclusive playground is about an hour’s drive outside the community.

“It’s something that, in 2018, it’s surprising it doesn’t exist... When I think about the opportunities for Max to play at a park, he is limited. I don’t want to say  that’s not fair, but I do think as a community we can do better.”

Inclusive playgrounds not only give children with disabilities a place to play, they also bring people of different abilities together, something Chapman said benefits both groups. 

“When you interact with someone who perhaps is different from you...you build an empathy and understanding of what that person lives every day and how they see the world. That understanding leads to kindness and acceptance.”

Leaders from the Bloomington-Normal Jaycees, Marcfirst and Autism McLean partnered with Max’s Miles Foundation last year to address the issue.

The City of Bloomington had already planned to replace the playground equipment at Rollingbrook Park when project leaders contacted the City with their idea to build an inclusive playground.

“It’s a very well-loved park,” said Jay Tetzloff, Director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts for the City. “When they approached us we saw a great opportunity to partner with them and have an inclusive playground there.”

 Both accessible and inclusive features are included in the proposed design. A total of $350,000 is needed to make the playground a reality. (Image Credit: Harmony Park Project.)

Both accessible and inclusive features are included in the proposed design. A total of $350,000 is needed to make the playground a reality. (Image Credit: Harmony Park Project.)

Tetzloff said the city originally planned to update Rollingbrook Park this summer. With fundraising ongoing for the Harmony Park Project, construction likely won’t begin until next spring, although Tetzloff said the final product will be well worth the wait.  

The City worked with project partners, Cunningham Recreation and commercial playground equipment company Game Time, to put together a design for the new playground.

Smooth rubber surfacing and American Disabilities Act-compliant ramps will help those with limited mobility navigate the playground. The design includes a roller slide safe for cochlear implants, a merry-go-round with high-back molded seats and other inclusive features children with or without disabilities can enjoy.

The City committed $85,000 to install the playground equipment, sidewalk and fencing, in addition to costs to handle ongoing maintenance for the park. State Farm also awarded the project a $25,000 Neighborhood Assist Grant last month.

Chapman said while corporations are pitching in, individual contributions will decide whether the playground gets built. The project needs to raise a total of $350,000 by this fall to pay for equipment and surfacing.

“If you’re a member of the community and you understand the need and the benefits of a park like this, make a donation,” Chapman said. “If you have a certain part of the population giving $20 or $25, that all adds up.”

How to contribute

The Illinois Prairie Community Foundation serves as the nonprofit organization accepting donations for the project. Donations can be made online or by mailing a check to the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, 2401 E. Washington St. Suite 300B, Bloomington IL 61704. Write “Harmony Park Project” in the memo.