GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, N.L. – School is out and summer is upon us, but at least one family is waiting to be able to get out and really play.
“Joel is a very social child,” Erica Billings said of her eight-year-old son. “To have a wheelchair-accessible swing, at least, at a playground where there are other children playing, is important to his development. Children learn through play and socializing.”
Joel Stride lives with cerebral palsy, which affects his arms and legs, and he uses a wheelchair to get around. There is one accessible swing at the Corduroy Brook Park currently, which Billings said is certainly a step in the right direction, but that park is not as busy as some of the others.
The good news is, three swings are now on their way and will be installed at the Main Street and Goodyear Avenue parks, as well as the one by the Pentecostal Church.
“We have the swings ordered, and as soon as we get them they’re going to be put in right away,” Coun. Rod Bennett told the Advertiser July 4. With the units ordered last week, this should happen by the end of August, he said.
The town applied for a $250,000-grant from Jump Start to help pay for improvements to accessibility at the parks, including paved walkways to the swings and paved parking spots to make getting in and out of cars easier. While the municipality did not get the grant, the money for the swings – which cost about $10,000 each – was already in the budget. Bennett said council will try to find money in the capital budget, or else perhaps in savings on paving elsewhere, to get the remainder of the work completed.
“It’s something I was asked for during my campaign, and it made sense, and I got all the councillors on side to get them ordered,” he said.
Billings has been talking to town representatives since May, trying to get the swings in place sooner rather than later.
“I just don’t want the summer to be gone and see nothing happen,” she said. “School is out now for summer, and to have that opportunity to play with friends and all that kind of stuff is important for every child, and even more so when there are barriers in place.”
While Billings is disappointed that by the time the swings are installed, a good portion of the summer will be gone, she said the area has seen beautiful fall seasons the last couple of years.
“Whenever they get here, we’ll use them,” she said.