ATASCADERO — The locally based Parents For Joy, a group started by parents and families of special-needs children to provide an all access playground in Atascadero, officially received a $5,000 donation from Bank of the Sierra on Aug. 10.
The check was presented by the bank’s San Luis Obispo-based commercial loans officer Charles Fruit to Sarah Sullivan, one of the group’s co-founders.
Fruit, who has a son and two granddaughters living with special needs, said that while his family history had nothing to do with the grant money, it made the opportunity to give the presentation especially meaningful.
While Fruit was ferrying the large display check to the Colony Park playground site for the meeting, Sullivan, and several volunteers for the organization discussed the recent history of the location since a May 1, 2018 groundbreaking.
“They started drilling test holes and found utility lines underground that weren’t marked on any map,” explained group volunteer Jennifer Jones, waiting in the shade beside the fenced off triangular lot behind the community center. “Nobody really knows if some of them might be active.”
That led to a rethink of the original two-level design which would have required excavating space for a play structure.
General features for the all-access nature of the playground itself remain unchanged.
As per the original pitch approved by the City of Atascadero, the playground will have features that are “accessible to people of all degrees of mobility and agility, and that promotes safety and inclusiveness.”
Importantly the features that guarantee a broader user base include things like a swing rated for both an adult and child use, which for instance, could be used by an able-bodied child with a disabled grandparent.
The company GameTime has worked with PFJ to select equipment appropriate for the site. Items unchanged in the plans include the swing, and several interactive sensory experiences enjoyable by those with autism, and electronic display boards.
Common elements for such sites include what is known as Pour in Place rubber, or PIP, a more expensive, but ultimately safer material to make the walking and play surfaces out of, and of course safety harnesses on swings and other gear.
Volunteer Rhonda Curtis said that for now the playground is the only one regionally which could accommodate all ability levels.
“People plan trips with their kids based on places they can go,” she said, “Jack's Helping Hand [another long-planned park for those with mixed-ability levels] when it opens, will be in Nipomo, which would be a half-day trip. We’ve come together [from around Atascadero] to have a place close to home.”
The 27th Annual Atascadero State Hospital Golf Tournament being held at Avila Beach Golf Resort on Sept. 15 has also selected the Parents For Joy as their sponsored charity.