New Barrington playground 'bringing community together'
With a colorful "cocoon" swing for children with autism, chair swings, ramps, slides and jungle gyms, the Barrington Welcome Playground at Barrington Elementary School -- finished just in time for the first day of school -- is now open to the community.
As Upper Arlington's first ADA-accessible playground, it's a dream come true for parents of special-needs children, said Aimee White, who has four children, two with special needs.
"To see my four children play on a playground together for the first time ever -- it was one of the best days," she said. "It brought me joy, not only for my children, but for all children.
"This playground is for all children, regardless of their limitations," she said. "There is nothing stopping any child from going out and having fun."
Barrington houses the district's multiple disabilities students from kindergarten through second grade.
"The playground is everything we hoped for and more," Principal Jason Fine said. "It has been a thrill to watch the students from our multiple disabilities unit enjoying the new equipment and interacting with their peers."
The playground opened Aug. 20 and is open to the public during non-school hours.
"Families have been enjoying the space since it opened and I get such a kick out of seeing the playground overflowing with families trying out the new space," he said. "It has been such a wonderful experience to see the playground bringing our community even closer."
White and her husband, Bob, were co-chairs for the playground project, which began last year when a committee was organized to raise funds and design the playset.
The fundraising effort brought in $150,000 by February, in a collaboration of financial support from Barrington PTO and families, Upper Arlington community members, the city of Upper Arlington, Northwest Kiwanis, Upper Arlington Rotary Foundation, Upper Arlington Education Foundation and Upper Arlington Community Foundation.
"We spent all of April finalizing our budget and playground design plan," White said. "We ordered all equipment in May and our original plan was to have the entire playground built by July 4."
She said rainy weather significantly altered construction dates.
"It poured buckets, literally, every day," she said. "We hand-built the playground in knee-deep puddles of mud and water. It truly was an experience for all of us, one many of us will never forget and continue to laugh about to this day."
She said the construction of the playground was all volunteer-based, aside from a four-member team hired through Playworld Midstates. Volunteers came from the Barrington school community, staff members from Upper Arlington city and schools, Leadership Upper Arlington and Peabody Landscape.
"When it was finally finished, my family and I couldn't stay away," White said. "I couldn't believe the number of people of all ages there from sunrise to well past sunset. This project brought the community together and continues to do so by all that meet and greet at the playground daily."
She said her favorite part of the playground is the Aero-glider and shade structure.
"It fits a whole family, wheelchairs included, and more," she said. "The rubber matting has been a wonderful addition, too."
Fine said the school will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony in late September to unveil a donor wall and officially open the playground to the community.
"We could never have accomplished our goal without the support and dedication we received from many community members and organizations," he said. "I couldn't be more proud to live in a community where so many people place the needs of others before their own."
White said the sounds of children playing on the playground "say it all."
"In just over a year, the UA community gave children a place to come together and play, learn and explore," she said. "There is no better reward or thank you than sitting on one of the benches on the perimeter of the playground and seeing the smiles and hearing the screeches."