by Loretta Park
SYRACUSE, UT - Tara Bennett just wants to see her daughter play in a park with her friends.
To do that, she hopes to raise $1 million so 2-year-old Chloe Bennett, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, can play side-by-side with other children.
"She loves playing with other kids and swinging and playing in the sand," Bennett said about her only child, who has cerebral palsy.
"But at a regular playground, she can't do that," Bennett said.
That's because the swings do not have high-enough backs to support her body, and it's difficult to push a wheelchair through sand or wood chips to the play area, Bennett said.
The Syracuse City Council recently approved a resolution allocating 3 acres at Legacy park, 2300 S 1000 W, for the proposed, "Chloe's Sunshine Playground."
The funds would go toward building an accessible playground, which would include ramps, sensory panels, table play, wider paths, Braille and fully accessible structures that will appeal to all children and conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act, she said.
Bennett started to research her daughter's condition after Chloe was diagnosed as an infant, and she came across an article about Natalie Blakemore, who raised funds for an accessible park in Lake St Louis, MO. It opened in 2007. Since then, Blakemore, a Brigham Young University graduate, has helped others raise funds and design playgrounds for their areas.
Bennett is now heading "The No Child Left Out Project" in Syracuse and has partnered with "Unlimited Play," a nonprofit organization headed by Blakemore, to build an accessible park for disabled children.
It will be the first of its kind west of St Louis.
Bennett, who studied business in college, is not only organizing fundraisers, she is also writing grants in hopes of obtaining private, state and federal funds for the park. Her goal is to see her daughter swinging in a public playground in five years.
The city is unable to provide any extra funding for playground equipment at this time, said Mayor Jamie Nagle.
But that does not stop the city's support of Bennett's dream.
"When you're a mom of a disabled child, everything's possible," Nagle said. "Tara's dream is for her daughter to play side-by-side with other children, and I salute her for that. I'm 100 percent behind her."
For more information about The No Child Left Out Project and upcoming fundraisers, go to thenochildleftoutproject.blogspot.com.
Upcoming fundraising event:
Golf tournament, June 8-9, Glen Eagle Golf Course, 3176 W 1700 S, Syracuse.