Come spring, Dylan and Megan, students at Crossroads, will no longer have to watch from the sidelines as their classmates play outside during school breaks.
And Amber Dyck’s dream of accessible playground equipment, for her daughter Megan and others, is close to becoming a reality, thanks to a generous community.
Megan, in a Grade 4/5 split class at Crossroads Public School, was born with Trisomy 8, a condition that left her with a fragile spine, poor muscle tone and joints that dislocate. “It’s been a tough road for her,” says her mom. Since she started Junior Kindergarten at Crossroads, Dyck says, Megan, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, has had no issues with inclusivity — teachers, staff and other children have always been accepting and helpful, embracing her and supporting her.
Except when she’s outside during play periods, when she is isolated because of her disability. She can only watch her friends having fun on playground equipment that is out of bounds for her, and that feels like a reminder she is different from the other kids.
“The whole idea of this is toward being inclusive, where everyone can play together,” says Dyck. “Everyone can join in, and Megan can see herself as part of it. This playground is being created with all children in mind. This is so close to my heart — I feel like it’s a legacy to leave behind for other children as ours get older.”
Dyck and Matt Dietsch, whose son Dylan is in the same class as Megan, and depends on a walker to get around, are on a school committee working to ensure an accessible playground for all — one that will allow children with disabilities to join their friends when playing outdoors.
Dylan is in his first year at Crossroads, having come from the Niagara Children’s Centre, says Dietsch, and being in a class of kids who love and accept Megan has made it easier for Dylan. “It was a big adjustment for Dylan, but the kids here have opened up their hearts and welcomed him,” he says.
Being at Crossroads also helps Dylan feel part of the broader community — when they are out as a family, he sees other kids he knows from school. “It’s fun to see the kids think of him as a peer, and not as a kid with a disability,” says his dad.
As much as Dylan and Megan are looking forward to equipment they can play on in their school yard, Dietsch says the other kids in their class are just as excited about it. “They can’t wait to play on it as well, with Dylan and Megan.”
Parents at the Crossroads home show Saturday were helping to share the news of the new playground, and collect funds to finance the $72,000 equipment.
The Virgil Business Association is donating $35,000, $10,000 will be donated from Saturday’s home show, Meridian Credit Union has contributed $750 and the local Masons another $500, says Dietsch.
“There are a lot of parents who want to make this happen,” says Dyck. “We’re very grateful for the VBA, who stepped in in a huge way, and everyone who is helping to make it happen. It’s incredible to be part of such a caring and generous community.”
They are looking for sponsors to help them reach their goal, and hope to see the playground installed this spring. They were also taking donations at the door and selling raffle tickets at the home show.
Although it will be on school property, it will become a community playground after school hours, the only one in the municipality, to be used by all kids, allowing Megan and Dylan to join their friends in play.
“It has been a fun project,” says Dietsch. “Who doesn’t want to see all the kids have a chance to play together?”