Community leaders, Rotarians and families with children of all abilities gathered Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 600 Crockett St. in Beaumont at 5 p.m. for a Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the grand opening of the Beaumont Rotary Centennial Playground. The playground was designed to enable children of all abilities to play safely together.
“We are thrilled to give this wonderful gift to Southeast Texas children and their families in recognition of the Beaumont Rotary Club’s centennial year,” said past Rotary Club president Becky Mason, who was instrumental in the planning of the park. “It is unique in that children of all capabilities, including those with special needs, can play alongside their able-bodied siblings and friends.”
Elizabeth Schreck of the Beaumont Children’s Museum, who assisted in the grant-writing necessary to acquire funds for Centennial Playground, said she has a son with special needs who will now be able to play with his siblings and friends of varying abilities.
“I have a son with Down’s syndrome (Timmy), and he’s got a bunch of disabled little buddies. We would go on field trips and all the students in wheelchairs would be sitting outside the playground watching all the other children play. I thought, ‘Hmmm. That’s not right.’”
Becky Mason’s husband, Chuck Mason of Mason Construction, helped plan and build the park, laying concrete, installing equipment and more. Rotarians from all over the area volunteered and assisted with the building of the playground. More than 200 individuals, local charitable foundations, businesses and organizations provided financial support for the project.
According to information provided by the Rotary Club of Beaumont, the playground is unique to the area and “the only one of its kind between Houston and Lake Charles.” The park has one entrance and exit so parents can monitor the comings and goings of their children. Wheelchair accessibility throughout the park allows children once confined to the sidelines to join friends on the playground and utilize the equipment. Schreck said the future Beaumont Children’s Museum will be adjacent to the playground, so she is sure children visiting the museum will enjoy having the park so nearby.
Joni Copty of Lumberton brought her son Maher, who is “differently-abled,” to the playground for the grand opening. She said she only knows of one other facility where children of varying abilities can play together on the same playground, and it is located in San Antonio (Morgan’s Wonderland). She is thrilled to have this playground so close to home. Copty said she has two other children, as well, and she loves the fact they can all play together.
“To have something like this that is accessible to the entire community is just great for kids who have all different types of abilities,” Copty said.