Group wants playground fit for special-needs children

  • Follow Metro

AIKEN - Sydney Parker, 6, usually stops when she sees the swings at the park. The reminder that she can't play like other children overwhelms the joy of the park and stops her in her tracks, said her mom, Monica.

Back | Next
Sydney Parker, 6, who suffered brain damage when she was 2, plays with her mother, Monica, at H. Odell Weeks Activity Center.  Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Sydney Parker, 6, who suffered brain damage when she was 2, plays with her mother, Monica, at H. Odell Weeks Activity Center.

"She just stands by and watches," she said.

Sydney's therapy with Hitchcock Healthcare and Heather Raynack, Hitchcock's rehabilitation services director, led to an effort by this year's Leadership Aiken class to upgrade a city playground so children with special needs, including Sydney, could play.

Raynack is also a member of Leadership Aiken, a program sponsored through the Aiken Chamber of Commerce. The group settled on the program because the 26 members realized anyone could be affected, Raynack said.

"It could benefit so many in Aiken County," she said.

About 12 percent of Aiken County's public school population has disabilities, according to the state Education Department Web site.

Sydney, who suffered brain damage in a car accident when she was 2, loves going to the park, her mother said, but the city's facilities do not accommodate her skill level. She can't support herself on a regular swing and trips over wood chips that cover the ground.

Parker said Sydney and others like her would benefit from equipment that has flat surfaces, handrails, paths large enough for wheelchairs and swings with high backs.

"Children learn through play, and right now she's halted developmentally," Parker said.

Leadership Aiken has its eyes on the park next to the Aiken Public Library, which is also scheduled for a city upgrade.

The group is working to raise $50,000 before it graduates in June.

Raynack said it has received about 10 percent of that since going public earlier this month. A playground with all the bells and whistles would cost about $175,000, she said.

Glenn Parker, the city's Parks, Recreation and Tourism director, said no funds are set aside for the library park but it is next in line for upgrades. He said the county applied for a grant with Boundless, an organization that promotes multifunctional playgrounds, to supplement possible upgrades.

The closest special-needs-accessible playground is Virginia's Playground at 605 Reynolds St. in Augusta.

How to help

Leadership Aiken will play host to a bocce tournament April 17 to raise money for the playground.

Visit for more information.

Comments (1) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
maninthepi 03/30/10 - 11:14 am


Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs
Top headlines
Augusta VA supervisor sentenced to prison
In what the judge called a "tragic case," a former Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center supervisor was sentenced Thursday to 27 months in federal prison for making false statements in medical files.