Students’ playground plan gaining traction

Upon meeting with three Park View High School students in late July about their idea to construct an all-inclusive playground in South Hill, Mayor Dean Marion said the first thing that struck him was the students’ professionalism and organization.
“I saw myself at that age, but I don’t know that I could have embarked on this initiative in such a professional manner,” Marion said.
Members of Park View’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter, seniors Madilynne and Olivia Tanner and sophomore Nylah Custalow have embarked on an ambitious plan to raise $100,000 through grants, fundraisers and donations and use the funds to construct an all-inclusive playground at Centennial Park right next to the current playground equipment.
They plan for the new playground to be completed by June 2017.
While the all-inclusive playground would be geared toward usage by physically and socially disabled children and adults, the FBLA students emphasize that it could also be used by people who are not disabled, which they hope will create an environment of inclusiveness and togetherness.
“We want all-inclusive to mean exactly that,” Madilynne said. “No one will ever feel excluded. Everybody can play together no matter if they’re socially or physically disabled.”
Olivia added that the students’ research indicates the playground would not only be an asset for youths but also wheelchair-bound adults, for example, wounded armed services veterans who could utilize it as a place to play with their children.
Nylah said the students plan to include a glider swing where one side features a platform and ramp that wheelchairs can access and the other side is a bench.
“That way someone in a wheelchair and others who aren’t in a wheelchair can all swing together,” she said.
There would also be slides accessible by ramps and sensory equipment that includes music, touch and textures, which is geared toward socially disabled people.
The students figure the playground equipment will cost between $60,000 and $75,000, while the rest of the funds would be used to provide hard surfacing and ramps for wheelchair access.
The students decided on the idea of an all-inclusive playground on July 4 after attending the FBLA conference in late June in Georgia. They were the first Park View students to ever attend the conference.
“We got there and were talking to all these people, and they had done all these amazing things,” Madilynne said. “We decided that if they could do it, so could we.”
The FBLA theme for the year is “A Legacy of Leadership,” and the students plan to leave just that.
“This playground can leave a legacy and we can leave our mark on this community so people for years to come will be able to use it,” Madilynne said.
They have devised a committee which includes Marion, Tammy Manning from First Citizens Bank, Park View FBLA advisor Chrystal Elmore and three parents of children who would benefit from the park, Krystal Hayes, Amanda Calhoun and Alison Hudson. Sam Carroll of B&B Consultants, Mecklenburg County Tourism Coordinator Jacob Bower, Sandra Tanner of Virginia Tourism Corporation and Town of South Hill Manager Kim Callis and Public Works Director Bill Wilson are also involved in the project.
The FBLA students figure there is a need for an all-inclusive playground in the area and say it would be a draw for visitors to South Hill. They said one of the mothers on the committee currently takes her children to an all-inclusive playground in Richmond.
“If your kids want to play, you’re going to go there and play, and you’re also going to spend your money there,” Olivia said. “There are plenty of people who would like to come to a more rural area and support local businesses.”
Marion agrees the playground would be an asset to the community.
“At the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do to build on the assets that the park already has,” he said. “It would be another asset to the town and community and another venue appreciative of any child or parent.”
Marion said the FBLA students are so professional and visionary with their initiative that he believes it’s the community’s responsibility to support them.
“Everyone has taken this on and tried to support it in their area of expertise,” he said.
The students have named their project “Kids = Play” and created a Facebook page to promote it.
They have organized a 5K “Glow Run” fundraiser on Saturday beginning at 7 p.m. at the caboose in downtown La Crosse. They say 130 runners have already registered and they’re still accepting registrations. Call (434) 774-5239 for more information.
They’re also planning to host a vendor night on Nov. 11 at the Southside Rescue Squad building.