Wheaton Park District
December 12, 2016
DuPage County, Ill.—The mission to create play for all in DuPage County and beyond received a boost this fall with a $100,000 donation and a $50,000 donation to the Play For All Playground & Garden Foundation, started in 2013 to develop the Sensory Garden Playground (2751 Navistar Dr., Lisle, Ill.), an accessible facility allowing children of all abilities to play side-by-side.
The two local donors wish to remain anonymous at this time, but they’ve targeted their generosity towards the building of an accessible treehouse, said Development Director T.J. Hicks.
“We’re extremely grateful for this incredibly generous donation,” he said. “It’s a gift to the children and families of DuPage County, and it’s a gift to every child, regardless of ability, who wants to play with their friends.”
Foundation officials toured local treehouses, including those at Hawks Hollow Nature Playground (38W199 Kaneville Rd., Geneva, Ill.) and Blackberry Farm (100 S. Barnes Rd., Aurora, Ill.), in October. The Sensory Garden Playground’s treehouse is now in the design stage.
“At this point, there are so many exciting options to look at, but we know it will have an accessible ramp and many interactive components,” Hicks said. “We’re receiving input from the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association and the rest of our partners, and look forward to receiving community input as well.”
The donation brings the fundraising goal of $450,000 for construction of this phase significantly closer.
The foundation hopes to have the treehouse designed by early next year, and if the remaining funds can be raised, start construction in 2017. Swings for 5-to-12-year-old children will also be installed at ground level in the spring, adding “yet another exciting component,” Hicks said.
These expansions will complement the existing 2-to-5-year-old playground, fragrance and sound gardens, central gathering area, walking paths, and Art Along the Way, a series of sensory-integrated sculptures also scheduled to receive additions next year.
“We’re going to install the Sensory Arch,” said foundation board member Margie Wilhelmi, “along with the Carousel and Harness Racer sculptures by summer 2017. Each of them adds something exciting and new to the facility.”
Art Along the Way is the brainchild of Elburn-based artist Joe Gagnepain, whose eclectic sculptures, paintings, and other creations appear across Chicagoland.
The Sensory Arch, an eight-foot-tall steel horseshoe “play[ing] off the scale of something small seen extremely large,” Gagnepain said, will span the path into the playground.
Inside, the Carousel will spin on a central axle, demonstrating centrifugal force, and the Harness Racer, shaped like a farmer operating a horse-drawn plow, is inclusive towards children who use wheelchairs, encouraging them to approach the plow at the same level as the farmer.
“It’s part of our effort to cover as many dimensions of sensory stimulus as we can,” Wilhelmi said, “from size to motion to height level.”
Land for the playground is leased from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County and equipment is funded entirely by private donation. Though the treehouse is now several steps closer to planting its roots, support is still needed.
“Once the treehouse and swings are complete, we’re still planning to build a playground for 5-to-12-year-old children, a water play area, a boulder climb area, and a multipurpose sports field,” Hicks said. “We’re committed to giving our community the most accessible and amazing playground and garden experience possible.”