The Presbyterian Medical Services Roundtree Children's Developmental Center broke ground on a new inclusive playground Wednesday at Roundtree Park.
The playground, a first of its kind in San Juan County, provides sports equipment specialized for children with disabilities.
The equipment includes a balance beam, molded-seat swing set, sensory panel, and wheelchair-access diggers, to name a few. The eqipment allows special needs children to enjoy the amenities of outside play, danger-free.
This couldn't be better news for Kye Welch, 3, who showed up with his mother, Dacia Richards, and five-month-old sister, Mya, Wednesday to break in the new equipment and enjoy a cupcake.
"As soon as Kye was born, Roundtree was there for us," Richards said, beaming, as she pushed Kye on the new molded-seat swing.
"I love it; I love Jessica," referring to Jessica Henderson, an early intervention coordinator at Roundtree. Because of Henderson's support, Richards believes Kye made progress-ahead of schedule. "Kye met every milestone Jessica set for him, even though he was very stubborn at first."
"We are there to help in a caring, structured way," Henderson said, "but the majority of the credit goes to the families."
And caring, structured support was evident at Wednesday's ribbon cutting.
"Playgrounds like these ease children with disabilities into physical activities a lot of us take for granted," said Roshana Moojen, Community Development Director for the city of Aztec and member of Leadership San Juan, whose countywide collaborative, Operation Playground!, spearheaded the project.
"The key to the inclusive playground is to allow for the child to be stabilized," Moojen said. "For some of the children, swinging can cause motion sickness. Inclusive playgrounds like Roundtree adjust for that."
The project was made possible entirely by donations, including those by ConocoPhillips Co., Bloomfield Police Athletic League, Farmington Noon Day Civitan Club, Wal-Mart, Peggy and Senator Jack Morgan, and other local businesses and community leaders. The city of Farmington donated the land.
The site, nestled between the Farmington Aquatic Center and its western parking lot, was also selected for its close proximity to Red Apple Transit lines.
Dedicating a first inclusive playground has not slowed Operation Playground! and its partners from bigger goals to benefit all play-bound children of San Juan County.
"This is Phase One, an official dedication of the playground," Moojen said. "We are excited to continue working in a second phase to expand into more communities-Aztec, Bloomfield, initially."
Carroll Scott, Bloomfield Police Lieutenant and member of Operation Playground!, was similarly inspired by the ten-month project. "We saw a need in the community-we learned that a couple hundred kids could benefit," Scott said. "A lot of people came forward to help, so we're appreciative and inspired by that," he said.
Since 1982, PMS Roundtree Children's Developmental Services, the sponsor of the dedication ceremony, has provided early intervention programs and therapy for children from birth to age three with various stages of disability, including Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, to nutrition and speech disorders.
"We serve over 150 families each month, from all corners of San Juan County," said Jyl Adair, Developmental Disabilities Administrator for Roundtree.
"The playground is a small but significant start we hope to continue to build on," Adair said. "It may look like a little now, but it's actually so much."
Elected officials from all three cities and the County were present for the park-side ceremony along with police chiefs from Bloomfield and Aztec, Aztec mayor Sally Burbridge, and project donors and Roundtree clients.
Mike Renaud, Presbyterian's Northwest Region Director, who spoke at the ceremony, said, "When we think about the word inclusion, hopefully, what comes to mind are those kiddos among us with disabilities who have places like this to play with other kids, socialize, and have fun."
Those in attendance applauded the sentiment and seemed eager to continue the progress the ceremony celebrated.
The festivities were clearly but a first step to Moojen, who urged for continued support and leadership. "You can get together all the A-types in a room that you like, but nothing gets done without the ongoing financial support parks like this one require," she said.
But the real heroes were kids like Kye, who, grinning ear-to-ear, implored his mom to keep pushing him on the sparkling new swings. "Higher! Higher!" he cheered.
For all children in San Juan County, playtime just got a whole lot better.
Roundtree Inclusive Playground is located at 1151 North Sullivan Avenue, west of the Farmington Aquatic Center. PMS Roundtree Children's Developmental Services can be reached at (505) 327-7720.