Almost one year ago, Bethany Lutheran Church of La Porte rolled out the plans for a fully accessible playground. Today, the $450,000 project is nearly halfway built and almost fully funded with a $25,000 donation from 1st Source Bank. The church has raised over $350,000 thus far thanks to the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, 1st Source Bank, and many local community supporters.
Dennis Meyer, the Head Pastor for Bethany Lutheran Church, said the rally for assistance started when he suggested adding a splash pad to the playground. There was so much support behind it when they started making the calls that they decided to make the playground fully accessible.
“We’ve had lots of community support and a number of members here at Bethany have stepped up and paid for pieces of equipment—expensive pieces of equipment,” Meyer said. “It’s a really gratifying experience seeing the community standing behind us.”
The initial idea came about when Carey Garwood, Outreach Director for Bethany Lutheran Church, was making plans to raise $30 to $40 thousand toward fixing the playground and witnessed how incompatible the playground was for a handicapped child.
“One day I looked out my window and a little boy in a wheelchair was on the playground, and I could see where he stopped because his friends ran to another section of the playground and he couldn’t follow them because it was all mulch and gravel,” Garwood said. “So I thought we should look at doing better, and that’s where the idea of making it a truly inclusive playground came from.”
1st Source Bank met with Bethany Church early on in the process, wanting to help. Matt Vessely, Regional President of 1st Source Bank, spoke to 1st Source Bank’s commitment to and love for the community.
“We were really excited about this project from the beginning. We had a good feeling about the vision for the playground…what it could become, and what it would mean to this community…and while we’re here today to commemorate 1st Source Bank’s investment in the project, the real story here is the project and the way the community has rallied around the vision and helped bring the vision to life”
“One great aspect about this project is that it’s not just Bethany’s [project], it’s truly a gift to the community to be enjoyed by the entire community,” Vessely said. “I think it will see tremendous use and will bring people together, and I love that.”
The playground is being built through the hard work of many volunteers. It will be one of the first in the area to be fully accessible and feature a solid, rubberized surface connecting all of the equipment, giving it wheelchair access. It will also feature a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round, sponsored by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, as well as swings, ramps, and a sway element—all with accessibility. Plus, there will be a few elements just for the adults to stay active and exercise while the kids play.
“A lot of the time God puts what we think is impossible in our way to show us how He is involved,” Meyer said. “It’s amazing what can happen.”
The playground will be right next to phase two of the Chessie Bike Trail, giving bikers a great place to take a break.
For more information or to donate, visit www.laparkplayground.com