Spring / Summer 2024 Newsletter

Celebrating 10 Years of Inclusive Play

It was 10 years ago that the seeds for the Sensory Garden Playground were planted when an Occupational Therapist from the Wheaton Kiwanis Club presented the idea to the Wheaton Park District and the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association (WDSRA).

The need for a recreational place, accessible to all children including those with autism and in wheelchairs, prompted the creation of the Play for All Playground and Garden Foundation, a nonprofit organization that leads the Sensory Garden Playground’s development.

The Foundation received its initial funding when a grant was awarded with the help of two organizations, Shane’s Inspiration and Landscape Structures. Shane’s Inspiration is a California-based nonprofit that supports the building of inclusive playgrounds. Landscape Structures is a commercial playground equipment manufacturer.

In 2014, the playground opened on Danada Forest Preserve property. When it debuted, the 40-acre parcel offered playground equipment designed for children 2 to 5-years-old, a sound and fragrance garden and a beautiful central gathering area, all aimed at providing enriching tactile, visual and auditory experiences.

Since then, more amenities have been added and even more are on the drawing boards. With the help of a variety of partners, including WDSRA, Wheaton Park District, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, the Kiwanis Club of Wheaton, the Wesley Luehring Foundation, Rotary Club of Wheaton A.M., First Trust, and many other donors, funds have been raised and devoted to making this popular destination a beloved place for all children and their families to enjoy the outdoors, social interaction and recreation.

Playgrounds that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act do not always go beyond providing accessibility for children who rely on wheelchairs or other mobility devices. The Sensory Garden Playground provides additional features that make the park especially attractive as a recreational option.

Over the past 10 years, several major enhancements have been added to the original playground, gathering space, sound garden and fragrance garden.

What we like to call “Art Along the Way Sculptures” adorn the site with fanciful creations, many with an equestrian theme in homage to Dan and Ada Rice, who raised thoroughbred horses in the area 50+ years ago. The perimeter fencing on the property is tastefully integrated with the natural beauty of the site.

Also added is a wheelchair-accessible tree house where kids can congregate and engage in imaginative play. It features a ramp, covered slides and a gazebo.

In 2022, two new major attractions were added: the GT Wave, a net climbing structure that includes a transfer platform and the Gravity Rail. Located near the tree house, Gravity Rail users sit in swing-style seats that are attached to a curved overhead rail that allows riders to glide through the air, just a few feet off the ground, around the track.

For safety, of children who wander, perimeter fencing was installed around the playground area. To improve communications with children who find it easier to interpret pictures rather than text, visual boards have been installed throughout the playground.

Today, the Sensory Garden Playground gives children opportunities to experience a number of fun activities that help with balance, cognition, emotional development, language skills and more.

  • The tree house is outfitted with wide ramps, comfortable, safe surfacing and room for socialization.
  • The Cozy Dome provides a place for children to explore on their own.
  • The chance to experiment with sound and music in the Sound Garden is a naturally calming exercise.
  • Equipment that spins and/or swings helps children develop better balance and coordination.

Plans for later in 2024 include the addition of new playground equipment intended to appeal to children in the 5 to 12-year-old range. Staying with the equestrian theme, these pieces will include climbers, a horse race track, a bouncer, slides, bridges, ramps and more. This project has an estimated cost of $500,000. Future plans include an open-air shelter that will help Sensory Garden Playground serve more education groups and families.

We are fortunate to be closing in on raising the necessary funds for the 5 to 12-year-old playground but still need the generous support of the community to help us raise funds to receive our $50,000 match goal this year from a generous donor.

Children climbing on ropes

The Sensory Garden Playground today gives children opportunities to experience a number of fun activities that help with balance, cognition, emotional development, language skills and more.


The Play For All Playground & Garden Foundation’s mission is to create barrier-free and universally accessible outdoor play spaces and gardens in DuPage County. Through the cognitive, social, and physical values of play, the Foundation promotes a spirit of inclusion and enhances quality of life, as well as supports involvement in recreation and wellness activities for all people and abilities. 

Without boundaries. Without limits. Play for all.

Play Days 2024 Offer Creativity, Nature & Fun

Get ready for summer at the Sensory Garden Playground, where Summer Play Days give kids and their families four special occasions to gather, play and experience outdoor activities together.

Kids attending Play Days will have access to the park’s tree house, gravity rail, net climber, sound garden, fragrance garden and artwork, all features designed to delight, inspire and encourage exploration.

This summer, a new schedule of themed play is planned for the third Saturday of May, June, July and August. Each Play Day goes from 10A to noon.

On May 18, as flowers bloom and warm weather returns, the theme will be “Dance.” Special activities celebrating the art of movement will be featured at this first Play Day. The world of “Bugs” will be highlighted at the June 15 Play Day.

Kids will learn about insects native to this area, play games and create craft projects. Also, there will be a nod to the cicadas’ cyclical emergence here this spring.

The Summer Play Days schedule continues on July 20 with a sports theme and wraps up on August 17 with Art”. Projects and games will encourage creative expression and give kids a chance to work on a community mural.

The 2024 Summer Play Days are sponsored by Wheaton Bank & Trust and by Culligan Water. Admission is free; there is a suggested donation of $5 per family.

Volunteer showing turtle to a toddler
A memorial plaque inside a rock for Elliott Nicholas Senkevicius

Remembering Elliott Nicholas Senkevicius

A Memorial plaque for Elliott Nicholas Senkevicius was installed at the Sensory Garden Playground. Elliott, who died in 2022 at the age of 3 after battling leukemia, looked forward to his visits to Sensory Garden Playground, said his mother, Melissa Guido. The plaque was created with the help of many generous donors in 2023.

Next Project: Open-Air Shelter

The Sensory Garden Playground has been a place where children can laugh and play, school groups can visit to release energy, and families can come together to make everlasting memories. Whether it be a child’s birthday party or an academic recess for special recreation groups, the playground has been a place that unites groups of people of all ages and abilities for access to inclusive and barrier-free play.

Throughout the past 10 years, we have noticed a growing need for a centralized seating area for groups to gather for events, school visits, and more. In 2023, the Wheaton Park District installed a temporary tented seating area available to rent, and we received an overwhelming number of rental requests. With the amount of interest we received, it became clear that the playground needed a more permanent establishment for groups to visit and reap the benefits of accessible play.

That is why we need your support in helping build an open-air shelter that will accompany the new 5 to 12-year-old playground.

What are the benefits of the open-air shelter?

  • Provides groups with a shaded area to cool down on hot and sunny days.
  • Supports the growth of the Sensory Garden Playground by generating revenue through rentals.
  • Encourages more groups of all ages and abilities to visit the playground and take advantage of its unique features such as the wheelchair accessible tree house, GT Wave, and Gravity Rail.

Because of you, we have been able to expand our amenities to a new age group and add more accessible and inclusive features to the playground. We hope you will join us as we continue growing to meet the needs of the children and community in play.

To support the development of the open-air shelter, please visit playforall.kindful.com or scan the QR-code.

SuperHero 5k Fun Run 2023 event
Superheroes posing with starting line in the background

Photo Credit: Kasey Mueller

Superheroes of all ages will join forces at 8:30A on Saturday, April 6 for the first Superhero Fun Run 3K to be held at the Sensory Garden Playground, 2751 Navistar Drive, Lisle.

The 2024 race features the new location and a new course that is great for the whole family. The event is presented by the Wheaton Park District and the Rotary Club of Wheaton A.M.

Part of the proceeds will benefit the Play for All Playground and Garden Foundation.



Park address: 2751 Navistar Dr. | Lisle, IL 60532
Mailing address: 855 W. Prairie Ave. | Wheaton, IL 60187
playforalldupage.org | /sensorygardenplayground | /sensorygardenplayground