Kids=Play gaining public interest

The crowd of a little more than 20 filled the seats lining the R.T. Arnold Library at Monday night’s Kids=Play information session. The event was organized and hosted by the Park View High School Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter to raise awareness about the club’s all-inclusive playground initiative.
The Kids=Play project is working toward building an all-inclusive, handicap accessible playground for local families and visitors to enjoy. The organizers of the project, Park View High School students and FBLA members Nylah Custalow, Madilynne Tanner and Olivia Tanner, were there to explain the details of the project and where they are in the process of making it happen.
Members of the Kids=Play board, Mandi Calhoun, Sandra Tanner and South Hill Mayor Dean Marion, were also present to give insight on the project.
Owner of Tiny Blessings Photography, mother of a son with autism and treasurer of the Families Embracing Autism Together (F.E.A.T.) organization, which promotes awareness and offers support to families impacted by autism spectrum disorder, Calhoun spoke on the subject of autism and the need for an interactive playground. She said an all-inclusive playground is a much-needed resource in the area.
“Every child deserves a safe, interactive and enjoyable place to play environment,” Calhoun said.
Mayor Marion also spoke on behalf of the project and gave some background about when he was approached by the girls about the project and his first impressions. He said when the ladies came to him in July to suggest the project, he was impressed by their passion and energy. He said with each meeting they have it is like “a meshing of the generations.” Mayor Marion said he learns from them just as much as they learn from him. He said the project “will build upon the many assets we have in our town.”
Shannon Morgan, a special education teacher for Mecklenburg County Public Schools, said she sees firsthand the way children’s faces light up when they go to the playground. She said children also, after playing outside, come in and share what they did on the playground. The sharing and talking the children do, she said, is one of the reasons she believes the all-inclusive playground would be a good way to allow children to interact with others.
The public showed interest in the project by asking more detailed questions that allowed the organizers to show their knowledge and passion for the project. One man was curious about the amount of space the playground would occupy and where it will be located. The ladies explained that the playground will occupy approximately 60×35 feet of land located on the sand and rock area next to the current playground on the upper field at Centennial Park.
This all-inclusive playground would be the only one of its kind within a 65- to 90-mile radius, according to the project heads. Madilynne Tanner wanted to stress that “this playground is going to be the first of its kind in a rural area in Virginia.”
The Kids=Play organiztion has earned almost a quarter ($22,541.37) of the funds needed to complete the project. One member of the public asked if the project could be completed in stages using what money they have now to start and work as they earn. Custalow explained that the project is an “all or nothing” process. The funds need to be completed before work can start on constructing the playground due to the surfacing process for installing the equipment.
June 1 is the goal that the Tanner twins and Custalow have set to have all the finances taken care of. They said if the money is not raised by then, they will not give up and continue to work until the project is completed.
For more information email kidsequalplay@gmail.com or contact Nylah Custalow at (434) 774-5239, Madilynne Tanner at (434)-774-0146 or Olivia Tanner at (434)-774-1856. To donate make checks payable to “Kids=Play” and send them to First Citizens Bank CC: Tammy Manning PO Box 670 South Hill, VA 23970.