A two-year vision finally became a reality on Saturday, April 21, as local families welcomed a new, fully wheelchair accessible playground at Sycolin Creek Elementary School, in Leesburg.
According to Special Education Advisory Committee Representative Cindy Larson, the idea came to her about two years ago.
“The PTA was going to build a second phase onto our playground and given that we have a large special education population here at our school I stepped in and said that perhaps, considering the population of our school and how unique it is, we can build a playground that’s just as unique.”
Larson is also the proud parent of 5-year-old Bridger who has been handicapped the majority of his life.
“The list of things that our family can’t do grows larger and larger everyday. The list of things we can do is very small. So my goal as a parent is to find those things we can do,” she said. “He only says about 11 words and the 11th word is playground, which he started saying last week. So that shows how motivating this is for him.”
Larson said that the total price tag of the playground was about $175,000. A number of local businesses and organizations were able to help out with donations, she said, while the school itself held a number of fundraisers.
Two years later, handicap children finally have a place to play, including 6-year-old Samuel Bukovac, who was diagnosed with Leigh syndrome at the age of two.
“It feels like reality has finally hit Loudoun County because there was nothing assessable for him, or children like him, anywhere,” said his mother, Jennifer Bukovac. “We were avoiding playground situations in fear of him feeling left out or getting frustrated so this is welcomed. We’re loving it.”
“It’s so wonderful to have a community playground like this because students with special needs have a place to come. Even if they’re in wheelchairs, with the ramps and the interactive play toys on the side they can actually enjoy it,” said Sycolin Creek Principal Sharon Keegan-Coppels.
Having worked with the special needs population over the past five years, Keegan-Coppels said it makes her happy to see the children participate in daily activities just like everyone else.
“Here they have the opportunity to interact with all different parts of the playground and be part of the school,” Keegan-Coppels said. “Other regular kids will be on the playground at the same time. So, it’s just very, very special to me.”
During Saturday’s grand opening event, Larson said that the playground is the first of its kind in the local area. It is open to everyone, she said, regardless of who they are.
“It’s just taking traditional elements and tweaking them so it makes it appropriate and accessible for everybody,” Larson said. “The most beautiful friendships are starting to form between the general and special education population and that is what I want.”