State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Easterseals Opens New Playground for Children of All Abilities

by on April 25, 2019 4:15 PM

Easterseals Child Development Center held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday morning for its newly renovated playground on Rolling Ridge Drive in State College.

Once covered almost entirely in mulch, the new rubber surface allows children of all abilities to socialize and have fun together. Before, those with wheelchairs, walkers, and strollers had a difficult time navigating the playground. Now, all the school’s children can equally enjoy the outdoor space.

One of the early care and education program's former parents, Christen Russel, came up with the idea for the “Paving the Way So All Can Play” initiative, which met its fundraising goal of $45,000 after months of planning and hard work. Center director Jessica Confer said Wilson Excavating and Grading donated its services to excavate and prepare the ground, then a playground company came in and poured the rubber surface. The project was completed in late October of 2018.

“One of our former parents, who is actually here today with us, her child is typically developing -- and it broke her heart every time she came to the playground and saw that all of her peers and friends weren’t able to play together, because our previous playground was mulch,” Confer said.

“That really prohibited students from moving around and socializing with their friends on the playground,” Confer continued. “She spearheaded the campaign, saying, ‘You know what? This is problem. We really need to fix this.’ Our entire center is inclusive; that’s what we specialize in is providing inclusive early learning experiences for our students, but our playground was the least inclusive space here at our center.”

The center's family-focused early care and education program strives to be inclusive as it provides a nurturing environment in which typically developing children and children with varying needs learn and grow together. 

In addition to the new, 3,000-square-foot playground, Thursday’s ceremony also served as a celebration of Easterseals’ 100th anniversary. Edgar Allen founded what is now America’s largest nonprofit health care organization in 1919. Easterseals serves more than 1.4 million people each year with a wide range of of services for people living with disabilities, according to its website.

Confer said the inclusive playground received support from throughout the community.

“We received many donations from the community, anywhere from local schools and classes that wanted to donate to us to different organizations that had fundraisers and gave us proceeds,” she said. “We also had a benefit concert [at Tussey Mountain] in the summer, so we were able to use donations from that specifically to raise enough funds to resurface our playground.”

Confer added that the most rewarding aspect of seeing the new playground come together was simply being able to watch the school’s students interact with each other in a way they hadn’t been able to before.

"There’s no barriers holding them back," she said. "There’s no limits out here of what they can do and where they can get to when their friends are playing.”





Ethan Kasales is a freelance writer in State College.
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