Harmony Playground logoHarmony Playground has joined the Giving Tuesday movement in an effort to finish its fundraising campaign to bring an all-inclusive playground to Effingham.

Having already raised $600,000 in money and in-kind donations, the fundraising committee needs $100,000 to reach its goal and organizers are hopeful that Giving Tuesday – scheduled for November 28 – will be the final push needed to help them cross the finish line.

“Our community has been generous in their support of this project and we are incredibly grateful,” said Aaron Myers, chairman of the Harmony Playground fundraising committee. “We’re asking for support from Effingham and the surrounding communities one more time on Giving Tuesday to complete our fundraising and put shovels in the ground next spring so the playground can be open by the summer.”

Once completed, Harmony Playground will provide children of all abilities with the opportunity to fully engage in play. Effingham Park District has partnered with All-Inclusive Rec in Farmington, Missouri, to develop a playground that goes beyond basic ADA requirements in order to give children an opportunity to interact with every piece of equipment at the playground.

“We take for granted how easy it is to walk or run across rubber chips or mulch to reach playground equipment. For some parents, this is incredibly difficult because the terrain is not wheelchair accessible,” noted Jeff Althoff, Executive Director of the Effingham Park District. “I’ve listened to several moms and the struggles they go through on a daily basis. Play should not be one of those worries.”

Althoff explained that he spoke directly with families when developing Harmony Playground.

“There has been a lot of input from families with special needs. We have been mindful of them when considering every aspect of this playground. We have been thorough in our planning process and we hope it shows for the families that visit this playground.”

The benefits of all-inclusive playgrounds extend beyond physical access to playground equipment. Harmony Playground is open to everyone, regardless of their limitations. Because of this, children will learn how to accept differences in others and learn to successfully play together.

All-inclusive playgrounds promote disability awareness and provide children with the tools to ask questions, get accurate information, explore their feelings and learn how to positively interact with their peers.

Children have been at the forefront of the planning process; however, Harmony Playground will have benefits for those parents and grandparents who also find playgrounds to be inaccessible.

“We have military veterans who cannot play with their kids because the equipment is inaccessible,” Myers said. “We have parents in wheelchairs and grandparents who cannot climb steps and cannot interact with their children and grandchildren while they play. We don’t want anyone to be stuck on the sidelines anymore.”

Giving Tuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, following the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Giving Tuesday kicks off the holiday giving season and inspires people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.

Giving Tuesday contributions can be made online (www.enrichingourcommunity.org/HarmonyPlayground), over the phone (217-342-4988), or in-person at Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation (2701 S. Banker St., Suite 102A, Effingham).

Follow Harmony Playground’s progress on Facebook.