Marquis McBride was excited as his mother, Terri McBride, pushed him on the new swing set at Riverview Park on Jan. 30.
It was the first time the 10-year-old, who is in a wheelchair, had been able to experience what many children his age take for granted – playing on the playground.
“We’ve never been able to do anything but just walk around and watch other kids play,” McBride said.
The park, which opened Jan. 30, was designed for children like Marquise, and for other children.
“This is historic because this park is for all children, regardless of who they are or what their condition is. They can play together, and that’s a wonderful thing,” said North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones.
The surface of the playground is blue and spongy, which will minimize injury in the event of a fall. Wide ramps allow wheelchair access to all parts of the playground.
The adaptive swing is made of sturdy plastic and resembles a larger version of a playground swing for toddlers. A merry-go-round is made of sturdy plastic with rounded edges to reduce the risk of injury, but is also designed to allow special-needs children to ride.
Other stations at the playground allow children to work a puzzle or play music.
Of course, there are also slides, which are low, wide and plastic.
“It’s all functional, and it’s very easy for the families to use,” said Pam Stickler, a who helped design the playground.
Stickler’s 33-year-old son, Stephen, has cerebral palsy, and she founded the RECing Crew to give him and others with special needs a recreational outlet.
“I always believed, when he was younger, that if kids could accept him when he was younger, that when he’s an adult and when they’re adults they’re going to understand him and there wouldn’t be a stigma,” she said.
“The other children don’t see them as being different when they’re on the playground.”
Soon after the park opened, Brandy Rutland’s first-grade class from North Augusta Elementary School and Uyen Griffis’ special-education class from Hammond Hill Elementary School overran the new playground.
McBride pushed her son up a ramp and onto a swaying ride, where he smiled as she rocked him back and forth.
“He loved that,” she said.
A few minutes later, six first-graders were on the same ride.
“I don’t think you’re going to see anybody sitting on the sides, wishing they could participate,” Stickler said.