Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Every kid should have an inalienable right to play

Every kid should have the inalienable right to go down a slide.
Or sit on a swing, climb on some monkey bars or just go out and enjoy themselves in a playground.
That should be written into our constitution, shouldn’t it?
For most youngsters, it is. But there are thousands of kids in this area alone who cannot enjoy a regular playground.
Carla Fanson’s son, Mason, is five years old. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He also has an autism spectrum disorder.
“I would say that during Mason’s five years, we have been to a regular park playground only four or five times. He is just very limited. I have to lift him into a swing. Climbing the stairs to play structures is dangerous because he cannot lift his legs fully at times. Even the woodchips they use underneath most regular play structures are a hazard because if Mason falls, he is at risk for seizures.

Carla Fanson and her son, Mason, look at plans for a barrier-free park.

“A barrier-free park would open so many doors for him. It would allow Mason to do things independently. He would be able to socialize with other kids,” continued Carla Fanson.
A barrier-free park and playground is exactly what Vania Apps and the Fraser First Booster Club have been working hard to create.
“We created a non-profit. We worked with the parks and recreation department in Fraser. Initially, we just wanted to see better parks. The more we learned, the more we realized that a large group of kids were not able to play at a conventional park and playground. Because of that, many special needs kids don’t even bother going. There’s usually nothing they can do. If there is, their options are very limited.”
Work is underway on the McKinley Barrier-Free Playground and Park located at Grove and 13 Mile in Fraser. Stakes were put in the ground this summer and construction is underway on the parking lot, walking path and comfort station.
While that is a start, it is hardly the completion of a dream. The park and playground’s design will allow everyone to easily access the play equipment, structures, approaches and pathways.
Among its many special features will be ramped wheelchair access to the highest platform of the play structure; swings with back support; elevated sand tables and activity panels where children of all abilities can play together; and sensory-rich activities that can let imaginations soar – for the hearing and visually impaired as well as for every child.
 A legacy dinner in memory of Sandy Caloia to benefit the barrier-free park was held recently at Fern Hill Country Club in Clinton Township. Tickets were $100 and entertainment was provided by The Island Doctor. It was a Caribbean themed buffet and a silent auction was held. Caloia was a very important member of the Fraser First Booster Club.
Despite the group’s fund-raising efforts over the years that has brought in over $400,000, nearly $250,000 is needed to help complete the project.
Apps wrote a blog that is published on the group’s website. It is titled “The Power of Play.”
In it, she writes, “I could speak all day of the power of play; the creativity it evokes, the opportunity for problem solving that it presents, the connection to the now that it demands, the focus and ultimate confidence gained. Yes, I could speak all day on the power of play.
“But barrier-free play is the most powerful play of all because it is inclusive. Although kindness will be fostered in barrier-free play, its greatest power is to educate. Let me share this story about my niece’s daughter, Lila.
“Lila, who was four years old at the time, was shopping with her mother. She saw a person who was mentally and physically challenged and gripped her mother’s hand in such a way that my niece looked down at her and said `What’s the matter, Lila?’
“Lila in all the innocence of a young child answered, `I’m afraid of the handicaps. They scare me.’
Isn’t it time that Lila and Mason got together and played? She’ll see there is nothing to be afraid of.
For more information on the Fraser First Booster Club, visit



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