On a cool, yet beautiful day in January, Greg and I decided to take Nathaniel to the park for the first time. We decided to go to the Kids Konnection Playground near our home. Initially, the physical beauty of the park is inescapable. The equipment and the grounds are in pristine condition, with pretty flowers and healthy greenery all around.
Another beautiful sight was when we went to the part of the playground for the smaller children. We put Nathaniel into one of the “bucket” swings, and he smiled and squealed with delight as Greg and I took turns pushing him in the swing. Then, his face lit up with the most beautiful smile as he enjoyed the exciting feeling of going down the slide for the very first time (with Dad supporting him, of course).
As we walked around and took Nathaniel to see and experience all the playground had to offer, we noticed plaques here and there, and we began to learn that there was more beauty to this place than what we had already noticed and felt. The plaques honored mothers and their children with disabilities who were the foundation of the playground’s creation. They also honored the private citizens, businesses, corporations, and government entities who gave of their time, money, and talents to ensure the playground would grow from an idea to an actual place for all people to enjoy. Beautiful!
A Playground for Everyone
Knowing this made many other aspects of the park make sense. Knowing this put us in awe of the creativity put into all the different activities the park had to offer. In addition to traditional playground equipment found at almost any playground, there are special, little nooks all throughout the park for play and learning. A xylophone made of wood and pipes, a place to sit and “drive” a “car,” a sand and water station, a large see-saw with large seats, several different tactile activities, as well as swings with large backs, and a huge sandbox with lots of different sand toys to use. This isn’t a complete list, but just the ones we noticed and Nathaniel enjoyed. One of the most beautiful things about all of the equipment, traditional or not, was that every single area of the playground was accessible by wheelchair! Not to mention, nearly all play areas are heavily shaded. This helps everyone dealing with Louisiana summers and people with conditions that require them to avoid direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. I thought, “Hooray! for the people who made this park!”
You see, I have been a special education teacher/tutor for more than five years. To me, this wasn’t just a really cool, handicap accessible playground. For me, the children, and the families I have worked with, this is a place where children and adults with disabilities can play just like everyone else. More importantly, this is a place where they can “konnect” with a large amount of people with varying backgrounds and abilities. Maybe most significantly, this is a place where they can be more a part of their community. Beautiful!!
The History of Kids Konnection Playground
A short time thereafter, I visited the website for the playground to learn more about the history of the Kids Konnection Playground, and the beauty surrounding this place continued. I learned that there is a lot of power when two moms of children with disabilities sit in a kitchen together! The seed for the playground was planted when one of the moms asked the other if her child had ever been to a playground before. One mom had heard of something called a Boundless Playground, and they wanted to make sure their children were able to enjoy the experience of going to a playground like all other children did. “Like Nathaniel did,” I thought.
As described on their website, “Boundless Playgrounds are special playgrounds designed so that all children of all abilities can play together. In January 2004, they [the aforementioned moms] gathered with other mothers like themselves and formed an executive board. They vowed that they would find a way to build this playground and named their group ‘Kids Konnection,’ for kids to connect through play.”
They began to spread the word about their ambitious endeavor. They needed at least one acre of land in central St. Tammany to accommodate the playground, parking, and handicap accessible rest rooms. With the help of Kevin Davis and the Tammany Trace, the land was donated. The parents raised the $438,000 in one year. In the fall of 2007, with thousands of in-kind donations, over 500 volunteers gathered for three weekends to build south Louisiana’s first totally accessible playground valued at $1 million. Beautiful!!!