June 2001 Bulletin

Safe, accessible playgrounds begin to sprout

Bone and Joint decade projects at Annual Meetings are inspiration to others

Teamwork by orthopaedic surgeons,industry representatives and othersproduced a safe, accessible playground in San Mateo, CA.

The Academy’s Bone and Joint Decade commitment to build safe, accessible playgrounds is spawning similar efforts around the country. Playgrounds built in one day just before the AAOS Annual Meetings in Orlando, Fla., in March 2000, and in San Mateo, Calif. in February 2001 were the inspiration for two similar projects in Kankakee, Ill. and Washington, D.C.

"We see a lot of kids as a result of playground accidents, so we decided to make an impact on our community by helping to organize a playground build," says Leo Swift, practice administrator for Orthopaedic Associates of Kankakee.

The playground construction took place on May 19 at Beckman Park in Kankakee, Ill. The site was chosen by the local park district. "After looking at all the different parks, Beckman was the most needy at this point," says Swift. "Our goal over the next five years is to be able to rebuild every single park in the Kankakee area."

The orthopaedic group worked in partnership with the Kankakee Park District to make the playground a reality, and "the Academy was very helpful in sending us tons of information, news releases, etc., to inform and educate the community about why the playgrounds need the community’s attention," Swift adds.

In terms of funding, the orthopaedic group contributed a good portion of the funds. Swift reports that area businesses were very responsive to the project, and that the local medical community stepped up to the plate, as well.

Plans were put together in conjunction with KaBOOM!, the project manager for the site. Some of the same techniques and drawings used for the playgrounds in Orlando and San Mateo were utilized for the Kankakee build.

"This is a project the community can really rally around," Swift says. "Many local politicians and business leaders joined about 200 volunteers—it was an exciting project."

The first safe, accessible playground in Washington D.C. will be built adjacent to the Melvin C. Sharp Health School this month, according to Charles Epps, MD. "We just need to find a date that is convenient to all parties," he adds.

Dr. Epps has been working on this project for about a year, collaborating with Boundless Playgrounds, Kaboom, and the Washington D.C. public school system.

"I participated in the first playground build at Magnolia School in Orlando, and when I saw that it come together, I thought ‘we could really use a playground like this in the District,’" he says.

For decades, Dr. Epps has provided orthopaedic services to students at a special clinic called the Service for Children with Special Needs, based out of D.C. General Hospital.

"These children have been my patients for over 40 years," Dr. Epps says, "and I’m very familiar with their needs. I’d been to the Melvin C. Sharp Health School many times and I knew that they did not have appropriate playground facilities. When I approached the school principal with the playground build, she said they’d been quietly planning and hoping for a playground for the past two years, so the idea was embraced with enthusiasm. Of course, the parents, the staff and the community all pitched in, and the rest is history."

The Melvin C. Sharp School has more than 200 students, primarily handicapped—more than 90 percent are in wheelchairs. The safe, accessible playground will be built on property adjacent to the school. The site was donated by the department of parks and recreation. The playground program has the full support of the school system, which is making a major contribution to the voluntary fund.

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