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West Monroe Civitan Club To Bring Unique Playground to Kiroli Park

A unique playground is coming to West Monroe - a special kind, built to be all-inclusive. That means children with and without physical and developmental disabilities can play together.
WEST MONROE -- A unique playground is coming to West Monroe - a special kind, built to be all-inclusive.

That means children with and without physical and developmental disabilities can play together.

Called the West Monroe civitan smiles park, the new playground will be built at Kiroli Park. It will include handicapped accessible playground equipment, restrooms, and even a giant pavilion for families to enjoy.

"When you hear playground, it sounds like it's something rather simplistic, but it's not," said Missy Fleming, Resource Development director for ARCO.

The West Monroe Civitan Club announced Tuesday that they'll be sponsoring a one-of-a kind playground for the twin cities.

"It's called an all inclusive playground, where children who are in wheelchairs, or children who have braces on their legs can play with other children," said Jay Mitchell, club president. "It's going to be unbelieveable for parents with children with disabilities."

The $400,000 project will come to life with the help of Los Angeles-based non-profit, Shane's Inspiration. They create playgrounds, aimed to bring kids together, across the country and world, including Sri Lanka and Israel.

"Siblings can play with their brother or sister who has a developmental disability," added Mitchell.

Much of the project will be funded by the West Monroe Civitan Club and proceeds raised from the ArkLaMiss fair, the club's yearly fundraiser. Shane's Inspiration gave the club a grant of $50,000 to help cover the costs, and the city of West Monroe will cover the costs in building the accessible pavilion and restrooms.

The club's ArkLaMiss Fair board chairman, Mike Shields, proposed the playground idea after seeing a playground like it while on vacation. The club endorsed the idea unanimously.

"It looks like it's evolved into whole community project," said Mitchell. "We're going to welcome contributions from any group, encourage the whole community to get involved."

It's great news for local organizations like ARCO.

"That builds a wonderful future for those with or without developmental disabilities," said Fleming. "The more people know and understand about people with developmental disabilities, the less fear there is."

Fleming also said the playground will give children a chance to learn about each other and help break stereotypes.

"It ultimately breaks down barriers and there's nothing as important as that," she said.

On November 5th, a team from Shane's Inspiration will fly out to West Monroe from Los Angeles for a planning session, where local kids of all abilities can actually draw what they want the playground to look like for the designers to use. A diverse group of professional adults will also be expressing their ideas on design elements.

"This is their tried and true method for developing these playgrounds," said Mitchell. "They'll use the input from the community to determine their design. 

Anyone wishing to be a part of the planning session can contact the club at 318-355-1441.

It's a project that will give parents and all children a good reason to smile.

"Parents can let the kids go out on the playground, and know that it's been designed where those kids can play without assistance and where they'll be safe."

Officials say this is a mutli-step process for the playground, but the pavilion construction will begin by the end of this year. There are similar parks in Lincoln Parish and Shreveport, but this will be a first for Ouachita Parish.
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