It’s not every place in The Region that can boast an all-inclusive playground; that is, a playground where kids of all ages and abilities can play and enjoy themselves. Hannah’s Hope is providing just that in Portage.
Hannah’s Hope, a Northwest Indiana non-profit that provides developmental equipment to kids with special needs and connects families by making life and communities more accessible, partnered with the City of Portage, the Portage Parks Foundation, and Castle Subaru to bring a high-tech playground to Portage’s new Founder’s Square Park. The city and Hannah’s Hope celebrated the groundbreaking of the playground on Tuesday. The playground won’t just be a playground for disabled children, representatives from Hannah’s Hope say, but an accessible playground to be used by all children, regardless of ability.
“This project is a dream that has been 5 years in the making for us,” said Hannah’s Hope cofounder and President Mike Martinez.
The organization is named after the Martinez’ daughter, who was born with severe brain damage and passed away in 2012. Even after Hannah’s passing, her parents are still reaching out and helping those who face many of the same challenges that they did.
“It was my wife’s idea about 5 years ago,” said Martinez, “While we were sitting in a park wondering why there weren’t more things to do with Hannah.”
Hannah’s Hope are very proud of one of the most tangible and visible way’s that they’ve helped special needs kids in the community in the history of their organization. In fact, the Hannah’s Hope Playground will be one of the largest projects the nonprofit has completed to date.
“What we do is we help kids with special needs reach their fullest potential,” Martinez said, “we do that a lot through therapy and through equipment for kids, but a lot of the public don’t get to see those kids. This will be the first very large, tangible item that the city of Portage, The Region, are going to be able to put their hands on and say, ‘you know what, we helped with this.’
The Portage Parks Foundation, which donated $75,000 to the project to purchase and build some of the equipment, was present for the groundbreaking.
Randy Wilkening, President of the Portage Parks Foundation, was ecstatic to help out with the project.
“I think this is wonderful for Portage,” said Wilkening, “It’s amazing to have something like this, and I give all the credit to Hannah’s Hope – I mean, they’ve tirelessly fundraised and this is their dream, their vision.”
The Playground will be unique in The Region in that it will be completely modern – while it will have ramps and accessible areas for wheelchairs, it will shy away from what Hannah’s Hope calls “ramps to nowhere,” that is, ramps that go up to tiny areas with nothing for kids to do.
To alleviate this common problem in accessible playgrounds, Hannah’s hope have made the platforms in their playground large and open, and have specially designed slides that make it easy and fun for kids in wheelchairs to enjoy outside play.
For those who are more confined, there will be app-enabled and USB-enabled activities that allow those kids to have fun, too.
One thing that Hannah’s Hope are especially proud of is the “Sensory Carwash,” a rainbow-colored activity set for children with autism that helps them with many of the sensory processing challenges that people with that condition often face.
In addition to its high-tech and therapeutic games, the playground will be designated as a National Research Playground, a playground where sociological researchers from around the country can come and study the way kids play together outside.
“From what we understand,” added Martinez, “This will be the most inclusive playground east of the Mississippi River.”
John Cannon, a Portage City Councilman, was also present for the groundbreaking event. He summed up the event perfectly.
“This really tells a good story about our city,” said Cannon. “What this means is that We’ve come together, all kinds of organizations, to make this happen, and that’s what Portage does.”