Neighborhood Assist

Construction funds sought for Smiles Park, an "inclusive playground" for children of ALL abilities.

To unite children with and without disabilities through inclusive play and educational programs.

Currently there are no truly accessible playgrounds in Northeast Louisiana. Children with disabilities are routinely denied entrance onto playgrounds, as the majority of them are physically inaccessible. And when they can actually reach the structure, there may only be one or two pieces of equipment available to them, leaving them out of the majority of play activities. This means children with disabilities are denied access not only to their social circle but also the vital benefits of play: physical development, cognitive growth, and social development, among others. There are many different types of disabilities which can fall into 4 separate categories -- intellectual, physical, sensory and mental illness. All of which are carefully considered when designing an inclusive playground. The West Monroe Civitan Club has worked tirelessly to raise funds for the construction of "Smiles Park," a playground that will be constructed within the City of West Monroe's existing Kiroli Park.

Through the efforts of the West Monroe Civitan Club, the community has rallied behind the concept of Smiles Park and has worked together to raise the needed funds to begin construction. If Smiles Park is awarded the grant, funds would be used to bridge the gap for the full funding amount needed to finish the project. Currently $751,000 of an $850,000 budget has been raised. Even though the Civitan Club is $99,000 short, they have moved forward in faith by ordering the equipment and that the rest of the funds will be raised by the time the project is completed in early 2016. A line of credit has been set up as a fail-safe to ensure completion.

Having Smiles Park in our community will help eliminate social barriers and bias between those with and without disabilities, hence shaping its future culture. There are no words to describe what it means to a child or a family to have the ability to play together. Something as simple as playing at a park or a playground with friends or loved ones is something many of us would probably take for granted. Thinking about your favorite memories from childhood? I bet some of those memories would include swinging and climbing on a playground, perhaps with your best friend, brother, sister, mom or dad. Good times, right? Now try to erase those memories as if they never happened, because your family member or friend had a disability that didn't allow them to access the playground with you. Or, what if it wasn't one of them with the disability ... what if it was you? What would you give to get those memories back?