Inclusive play feature added at Gaiser Park thanks to collaborative effort


The official opening of a new piece of playground equipment at Gaiser Park in Seymour was a special occasion for Joel Coomer.

Using the attached ramp, Coomer was able to access the Sway Fun glider in his wheelchair and excitedly began rocking back and forth.

The boat-shaped glider works like a swing, using motion to sway those on board. There is room for two wheelchairs, plus two large benches for other passengers. It is designed to build sensory, motor, cognitive, social and emotional skills.

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Coomer was one of the first to use the $33,000 glider during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday at the park. The event included city officials and representatives from The Arc of Jackson County, which spearheaded and helped fund the project.

The Arc is a local nonprofit organization that supports children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families.

As part of the project, a special poured-in-place rubber surface also was added around the glider and an adjacent playground feature. The surface, which cost $17,000, makes the equipment more accessible and safer for users. Funds from the annual Cars and Guitars event paid for the new surface.

Cars and Guitars already has funded playground equipment at Shields, Gaiser and Kessler parks.

An additional $12,000 for area prep work and sidewalks came from the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department.

Although the Sway Fun was installed in late 2019, temperatures got too cold to lay the flooring last year, said Melanie O’Neal, executive director of The Arc of Jackson County.

“We had to wait until spring 2020, then COVID hit, so that delayed us further,” she said.

O’Neal’s inspiration for adding more accessible and inclusive playground equipment to area parks comes from her visits to Freedom Field Park in Columbus.

“That’s where I take my daughter to play, and that’s what we want for Seymour,” she said. “We want our clients and our community to have something that they can participate in that’s safe, appropriate and nonjudgmental, where they can get out and play with other individuals in our community.”

All inclusive play is the goal, she said.

Jim Shepherd, president of The Arc’s board of directors, said the organization is very proud of the new playground equipment.

“This is quite an undertaking and is truly a collaborative effort,” Shepherd said of how the project came to be. “It’s a very expensive process to try to get this type of equipment. We were very lucky.”

Besides providing support to local agencies that serve people with disabilities, The Arc of Jackson County helps individuals find resources locally and through its affiliation with The Arc of Indiana and The Arc of the United States, Shepherd said.

Another role of The Arc is to help the community understand the needs of its clients.

“We want to help them become part of the community and be able to include them in activities and be able to participate in community resources,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd hopes The Arc is able to add more playground equipment in the future.

The parks often are busy, filled with people enjoying the playgrounds and activities and people with disabilities need to be able to do the same, Shepherd said.

“We’d love to be able to target some of the other parks in Jackson County, including some of the outlying areas,” he said. “We just want opportunities for people with disabilities to get out in the community and participate like everyone else.”

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