Peoria, Ill. (WMBD) — In fall 2019, team members from the St. Thomas (school) RoboComets identified the need for an accessible playground in their community.
Their vision was to build it in Tower Park, where families of all abilities could enjoy.
Former St. Thomas student Katie Kube — who’s been on crutches seven times said she knows a thing or two about accessibility.
“What seems accessible and what isn’t,” Kube said. “And I can tell you firsthand that when things aren’t accessible, I just don’t feel like going out and doing anything.”
So when the team first started this project, Peoria Heights village trustee Brandon Wisenburg shared a story that inspired the team to create a park there because it means everything to those families and the Peoria community.
“About a family he knew; they had two children, a daughter who was in a wheelchair and a son who was completely able-bodied,” said Kube. “They were at Tower Park the son was able to play, meet new kids and have fun. Their daughter had to just sit on the sidelines and watch. To me, that just doesn’t seem right.”
Peoria Heights Mayor Michael Phelan said he is honored and privileged to work with this group of inspiring young people.
“We had some obstacles with COVID and the inflated cost of COVID, the short supply of materials due to COVID,” says Phelan. “Three years in the making but here we are today at the finish line.”
Inclusivity means everyone can join in.
According to Kube, they wanted this park to capture that childhood innocence, where kids could learn about disability at a young age so it wouldn’t seem scary or daunting.
“So all those kids can feel included and feel loved, and they can feel like they can take on any of the challenges and responsibilities of anyone,” she said.
The level of support for this project was unprecedented.
The city was on board, restaurants were on board, people from all over Illinois were on board; and donations poured in.
“The group of RoboComets made their presentation to the village board at a meeting a little over three years ago,” the mayor says from that night on the entire board was unanimously committed to this idea.
The park isn’t just wheelchair accessible, there are also sensory toys.
“Unfortunately some of that equipment is the most expensive equipment, so moving forward I would love to see us continue to raise more and add a new addition to the park,” says Kube. “And just really grow it and make it beautiful.”