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Disabled children to get new playground in Folsom

By: Don Chaddock, The Telegraph
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Mia Garza is like many other 2-year-olds. She keeps her mother, Anita, busy as she quickly maneuvers around neatly organized chairs and tables during a recent community meeting in Folsom. Mia’s giggling even draws the attention of speaker Jim Pelley, who quips, “I love the laughter in the background.” But Mia is not your average toddler. The smiling tot suffers from cerebral palsy and uses a walker to get herself around. On this warm evening at the Folsom Community Center, about 50 people have gathered to discuss progress on a new “Play for All” park. It’s a project that has been in the works for three years with fundraising efforts scheduled to wrap up in August. “We’re basically ready to do this,” said Terry Carroll, one of the park’s proponents. “The park’s mission is to allow able-bodied children and those with special needs to be able to play together. … We just want to get this thing off the ground.” The park would feature equipment that can be used by those with disabilities and the ground covering would be a foundation of concrete with a rubberized layer on top, allowing wheelchairs easier access. For Anita, the park will mean her daughter will be able to play with her friends. “Oh, it’s so important,” she said. “What they said about the ground covering is huge. To crawl on (bark chips) is really hard for us. For Mia to be able to access the park in her walker (is) great.” She said while her daughter will benefit from a park like this one, it’s not just for disabled children. “I believe in the importance for the able-bodied kids to play with the disabled,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for both. What she can do at the park just lights her up.” Pelley said it’s a common misconception that the park is only for the disabled children. “The parks are enjoyed by both,” he said. “It’s for all kids. Dane Schweitzer, of Folsom, and his 4-year-old daughter Olivia are also looking forward to the park. Olivia also suffers from cerebral palsy and her father has become a link between park organizers and the disabled community. “I saw them with a little tent (trying to) raise funds to build a ‘Play for All’ park (three years ago) and I said it couldn’t get done this way,” Schweitzer said. “I’m trying to build awareness with all the organizations and parents who have disabled children.” He said without the new park, he believes his daughter, who is in a wheelchair, wouldn’t be able to use the current playground much longer. “I think it’s huge,” he said. “I’m a dad who tries to put her in a normal swing or in a normal slide. I have to carry her to all those things. There will be a time when she’s too big for the baby swing.” Pelley said they need another $20,000 to reach their fundraising goal of $200,000, but hope to do so by August. The effort to build the park is a private one, but the city is allowing it to be constructed at the Folsom City Lions Park. A link for making donations can be found at www.folsomplayforall.com.