Kim and Craig Sandager’s son Ian is a wheelchair user. During his tot years they would find the odd playground that Ian could *kind of* use. One might have a ramp, but then be surrounded by pea stones. Or, they’d find a swing that Ian could use, but there would be a wooden border around it.
That’s why discovering a fully wheelchair accessible playground meant the world to them. They were in Saskatoon for a doctor’s appointment and stopped at a park for a play. Ian drove his power chair all around that playground, and while Kim watched him explore and have fun, she knew she wanted her son to have that freedom to play every day.
And so began the task of raising a very large sum of money in the town of Preeceville. The dream was to create a space for all kids, for every body.
With no funds available from the school district, Kim and friend Melissa McNamara (and countless other volunteers along the way) set to work – applying for grants, organizing events and spreading the word.
One of the team’s most successful fundraisers was the ‘Run for those who Roll’ race which featured a 2km family fun run up to a 10km distance. Putting a race together is no small task, but the community rallied and the first year alone raised $27,000. “It was a really great way to bring in outside support; one where people could involve aunts and uncles and others who don’t live right in the community,” said Kim.
Between grants and fundraisers, the group raised money for a completely accessible playground at the Preeceville school. “I still have the newspaper articles and fundraising stuff and pledge sheets… I don’t know that I’ll ever go through all that information, but it’s just; holy smokes, we did that!” said Kim.
The playground, complete with rubber surfacing, was installed in the fall of 2012. “It was absolutely a life changer, and I don’t know if we really know how much.”
“TO THINK THAT IAN WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO PLAY NEXT TO HIS CLASSMATES – I CAN’T IMAGINE IT NOW,” said Kim.
In the end, achieving this huge goal and having the playground in place has been impactful not just for Ian, but for the Preeceville community. While Ian is now 15 and doesn’t use the playground quite as much as he used to, the school playground will be there for years to come. Having a safe space for every body who wants to play there is important, and unfortunately not always the norm.
“It makes sense for schools and towns to plan for all users; it’s not really ‘if’ someone in a wheelchair will want to use the playground, it’s more like ‘when,’” said Kim.
A lightbulb a moment on an otherwise regular day. A mother’s immeasurable love, determination, a community’s support and a LOT of hours organizing and planning. All of these added up to create EveryBODY’s Playground; a Preeceville, SK legacy project that includes all kinds of kids.