Students design, hope to build an accessible park in Peoria Heights

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PEORIA HEIGHTS, Ill. (WMBD) — A group of students from St. Thomas School in Peoria Heights wants to build the area’s first all accessible park at Tower Park.

The students formed the group ‘Together We Play’ and created the design originally for a robotics competition. It caught the attention of Advocates for Access, which supports people with disabilities locally.

Advocates for Access living coordinator Adam Duvall said the organization was quick to back the project.

“It was a no brainer to partner with ‘Together We Play and make sure that our community has an accessible park,” said Duvall.

Duvall is helping the students rev up fundraising efforts this summer. He said one in four people have a disability. There are currently no all-accessible parks in Peoria and he wants to help get the word out about the project.

“I think that’s very important to make sure everyone knows that, you know, there is a need for an accessible park here in the Peoria area,” said Duvall.

One of the park’s designers, Katie Kube, said after hearing stories about Tower Park playground’s lack of accessibility, the group knew there was a need for a new design. She said parks are places for kids to be themselves and make friends, and everyone should have that opportunity.

“It’s just a passion for all of us being kids and wanting to see other kids being able to play,” said Kube.

Another group member said he’s proud to be making a difference in the area.

“I am building something that will help the community, and make kids and even grown-ups who have disabilities be able to have fun,” said another student who helped with the project.

Kube said all disabilities will be served at the new park and it will include many unique features.

“Play equiptment that will be suited for children with autism, or hearing impairments, or visual impairments — certain things that will be stimulating to them,” said Kube. “Some enclosed spaces for children that maybe get over stimulated with a lot of other children around.”

Duvall said the group is looking for donations and has a of $100,000 by next year.

“These young people are inspiring, they’re motivated, they’re determined, they’re going to put their mind to it, and us at advocates for access, we’re there to support them,” said Duvall.

In July, organizers are hosting a free, safe, star wars themed event at tower park, encouraging people from across Peoria to have fun, meet the team, and learn more about the project.

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