Children's Center Celebrates Completion of All-Inclusive Playground in Augusta

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AUGUSTA, Maine. (WABI) A one-of-a-kind, all inclusive playground in Augusta aims to accommodate kids from all walks of life.

Thursday, the Children's Center celebrated the completion and installation of one of the only completely accessible playgrounds in Central Maine.

"To my knowledge, this is the only playground like it in Maine for kids that are a year to six years old that is completely inclusive, meaning no matter what type of delay, what type of disability a child has, whether they're in a wheelchair or a standup walker, whether they're non-verbal or whether they're the typically developing, they can get to every corner of this playground and travel as a social group, as kids tend to do, and be together experiencing all types of things in this environment that we've created," said Jeffrey Johnson, Executive Director of the center.

With locations in Gardiner, Skowhegan, and Farmington, the Children's Center in Augusta offers facility-based services to about 75 kids each day. Roughly 60 of those 75 children have some sort of developmental or physical disability.

To encourage social interaction and exercise among typically-developing children and those with disadvantages, the center spent four years fundraising and designing a playground where everyone can have fun.

"It sparks that growth in ways that adults can't motivate kids sometimes to talk and to move around and to participate socially, but their 3 or 4-year-old friends can do that in a way that sometimes amazing to watch," said Johnson.

The center's Autism Program Supervisor, Kara St. Hilaire, says the play area features a number of hands-on activities and interactive jungle gym accessories to accommodate those with various sensory needs.

"So it's really awesome to see all the kids come together and play on a playground that provides options for everybody," said St. Hilaire.

The playground cost about $190,000 to complete, and according to the center that could not have been done without major donors like the Shuman Family.

"We love children and we love to see them happy. And if we can help them to be happy, that's what we try to do," said Charlie Shuman, with his wife Nancy, and their daughter Elissa.

Judging from the smiles on kid's faces, playing on a brand new playground for the first time certainly makes children happy, especially when all their friends can join them.