Families will no longer have to travel to Jake’s Place in Cherry Hill to play with others now that the Shamong school district has an inclusive playground open to township children and adults of all abilities.
Two years of drafting blueprints, fundraising and construction came to an end on Sept. 15, as Indian Mills School Principal Nicole Moore cut the ribbon at the Play for All site on school grounds.
Superintendent Christine Vespe thanked organizations within the district, the board of education and township officials for formulating plans beginning in October of 2018. Fundraising to offset building costs began in January the following year, and district employees worked over the summer to install equipment and run trials for safety and mobility.
New playground structures include a stabilized surfboard to encourage balance; a modified merry-go-round that, unlike in years past, limits the amount of children who can spin inside; a rope bridge; and a climbing set for kids to practice coordination and others.
“I like to see the kids on the spinning one (merry-go-round) because you hear them excited and see them excited,” said Ali Ferrell, head of the Indian Mills Home and School Association, which coordinated many of the fundraising events.
“That’s just my favorite one. Watching the kids run onto it was my favorite thing.”
With the playground, families no longer need to travel to Jake’s Place roughly 40 minutes away to enjoy a wheelchair-accessible swing set or other play equipment.
A 50/50 fundraiser held at Indian Spring Country Club in Marlton earlier this year helped another aspect of the project come to life, a memorialized picket fence exterior etched with the names of donors. Attendees at the fundraiser paid $100 for admission, half of which went to the playground and the rest to pay for building equipment.
“It’s a lot of families, some local businesses that wanted to be a permanent part of the community playground,” Ferrell noted. “It’s really a reminder that it took a whole village to make the playground.”
Kids in the township can play once all after-school programs at Indian Mills School end. Ferrell recalled gathering with friends at a playground in her youth and she hopes her kids, Cole and Greyson, can experience “Play for All.”
“Play must be inclusive,” Vespe added. “Physical barriers cannot be an issue. Here in our community, we are proud to say all of our children can play together.”