New playground in Joliet ‘a gift’ for disabled
BY BRIAN STANLEY firstname.lastname@example.org October 24, 2013 10:06PM
Norman Zweibruck tries out some of the equipment Thursday at the opening of the United Cerebal Palsy Wheelchair Accessible Playground. | Brian Stanley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 26, 2013 6:33AM
JOLIET — Back when Larry Burich was a kid growing up in the Reedwood neighborhood, the open area at O’Neill and Morgan streets was called “the playground.”
“Even though we called it that, there wasn’t much there. Just some concrete bases that were great for baseball that everyone would get injured tripping over when we played football,” Burich said.
By the time Burich had kids of his own, there were a few swings they could play on during visits to Grandma’s, but “the playground” still was pretty bare.
“It’s so nice to see a real one and what it offers everybody,” the chairman of the United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois Prairieland Board of Directors said Thursday.
The area behind the organization’s Joliet campus now is the first fully wheelchair-accessible playground in the state.
Burich, organization president Jim Mullins, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-11th, and other local dignitaries spoke during the opening ceremony before about 50 of the organization’s students and clients got to play. This was the first time some of them got to use swings or a jungle gym that accommodates wheelchairs.
The ramps on the jungle gym lead to a big blue rocker that can sway back and forth. Within minutes of being used for the first time, the rocker was being referred to as “The Boat” by everyone.
“It’s a gift,” United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois Prairieland client Norman Zweibruck said.
After students suggested the playground idea about two years ago, a committee was formed to coordinate the project. Director of fund development Eloise Crabb said the $230,000 cost was completely donated.
“Construction started in August and we had great weather. There will be some more lighting installed, sidewalks and pathways from the parking lots and tables with umbrellas,” Crabb said.
Stephanie Egan was a client before her death in 2004 at the age of 15. Her father, Steve, said the playground would provide a lot of opportunities to children with special needs.
“I think a lot of parents have hoped for a facility like this where they can play safely. It’s wonderful,” he said.
Donations toward the playground still are being accepted at 311 S. Reed St. or by calling Crabb at 815-744-3500, Ext. 234.