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Volunteers worked hard for two days installing the new playground equipment at South Hill’s Centennial Park. Above, Kids=Play student organizers Madilynne Tanner, Nylah Custolow and Olivia Tanner. (Photos by Lisa Clary and Steve Hinzman) / August 15, 2018

Volunteers came together over the weekend in South Hill to build the Kids=Play all-inclusive playground at Centennial Park, bringing to fruition a project dreamed up at the time by three students at Park View High School.

Madilynne and Olivia Tanner, who have since graduated, and Park View High Schoolstudent Nylah Custolow joined with members of the community to unpack crates, sort through hardware, dig holes and trenches and build playground sets that can be enjoyed by all children, regardless of physical or cognitive impairments.

Beginning as an FBLA project, the Kids=Play initiative drew contributions of more than $100,000 in just over a year, with the girls spearheading the campaign. They decided to work with Cunningham Recreation, an exclusive representative of GameTime, to design the all-inclusive playground at Centennial Park. Company representatives visited town this weekend to assist with the installation.

The $100,000 represents the proceeds from private, civic organization and church donations, various fundraisers as well as a $15,000 grant from the Christopher Reeve Foundation. The new playground facility is designed for the enjoyment of typically developing children as well as children with autism, hearing impairments, cognitive disabilities, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and other physical and developmental needs.

By giving children with and without disabilities a chance to play together, the playground will serve to eradicate social exclusion and physical barriers among children. The aim is establish a positive mindset and teach children to appreciate the differences between people and recognize the similarities hidden within them. It also contributes to children’s physical, emotional, and social development.

All-inclusive playgrounds create a therapeutic environment that can benefit everyone, young and beyond, in the community. Being a centralized location between Raleigh, Richmond, Roanoke, and Virginia Beach, South Hill is an ideal area to attract families of all different ages and capabilities to play together as families or with other children.

The Kids=Play expressed appreciation to the community for its support of the project. The park will be open soon, following the pouring of concrete and the surfacing of the area around the equipment.

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