Nothing beats seeing your child smile. Tony Bertolino smiled back at little Scarlett while pushing her on a swing in the park. "Yeah!" he giggled as he played with his three-and-a-half year. Scarlett shared a modest grin. Albeit a small smile, it was still a special moment. Scarlett has cerebral palsy and, in turn, is working through some developmental disabilities.
It is clear Scarlett likes being outside. The problem as she gets bigger, however, is that most public play areas are more challenging than fun for her. She is not quite walking, but Scarlett can pull herself where she wants to go. So, the stairs and tight spaces on traditional playgrounds are especially difficult to maneuver.
Scarlett is not alone. When a group of ladies, with the Junior League of Reno, realized there was not a universally accessible playground in our area, they dedicated their efforts to creating one. The Junior League is a non-profit comprised of women who are committed to building a better community through education, advocacy and volunteerism. Four years ago, the group began planning and fundraising for the playground.
Mary Yount is the Chairwomen of this project. She proudly told us, the $400,000 playground is just about ready for the public. We met Mary at Inspiration Station which sits on the west side of Dick Taylor Memorial Park, near the Evelyn Mount Northeast Community Center on Valley Road. Construction crews are still putting the finishing touches on the playground, but the attractions that make this space different than most playgrounds are already clear. Mary pointed out, "There is a large ramped play structure, so wheelchairs can get right up onto the equipment. There are adaptive swings and also there are a lot of sensory elements that have been incorporated." Padding on the ground and astro-turf will provide better protection for the children with trouble balancing and for wheelchairs.
The playground meets all standards by the American Disabilities Act. The Junior League even asked parents, like the Bertolino's, for input to ensure kids, like Scarlett, will be able to take full advantage. With an appreciative heart, Tony Bertolino explained during this play date with Scarlett, "My biggest hope is that she has fun first and foremost and her mobility gains every time she's having fun in parks like this." Tony and the Junior League are especially pleased that this playground will allow children of all abilities the ability to play together.
The grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration will take place on Saturday, October 20 at 2 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend. To learn more about the Junior League of Reno, log onto www.jlreno.org.