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Playtime Is Better Together!

Cassandra Rotolo April 18, 2019

In Tennessee, the Lions-Anthem Foundation Healthy Heroes initiative helped to fund and build the All-Inclusive Playground at the Karns Lions Club Community Park in the spring of 2017. The playground serves more than 3,500 families each year and is the only one in all of Knox County that meets the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The playground features a musical garden, modern accessible play structures and much more. Thoughtful and inclusive design are key. There are no hills, mulch or rocks. The artificial turf provides a soft, even surface on which all children can walk, run and even fall safely.

Inclusion teaches compassion and acceptance. And everyone benefits from that.

For 5-year-old Natalie Barham, this means more confidence. Natalie’s difficulty with balance used to keep her from exploring other playgrounds freely. Natalie’s mom, Amy, explains, “We never spent much time at parks before because it was just too difficult for us.” Natalie is an outgoing and friendly child, and is now playing happily with new friends of all abilities that she meets at the playground.

Perhaps as important, the playground is not only accessible, but inclusive. “Accessible” playgrounds are built exclusively for children with disabilities, whereas “inclusive” playgrounds are built for children of all abilities. For 7-year-old Addie Humphreys, who has cerebral palsy, this distinction is vital. Design elements like extra handrails and low transfer points on slides give Addie the opportunity to connect with other children. Disc-shaped swings provide Natalie the exhilaration of swinging alongside friends.

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For Addie’s mom, Rachel, the Karns Lions playground offers peace of mind. Addie lacks the core control to safely navigate traditional playground equipment, which often means she plays with her mom instead of other children. The innovative equipment lets Addie interact without her mom hovering too close. “Thank you so much, Lions and Anthem,” says Rachel. “You see so far outside of yourselves. This is a gift for the kids, the parents and the entire community.”

The project reflects Lions Clubs International Foundation’s and Anthem Foundation’s shared vision of health and wellness for all. Since 2015, Healthy Heroes projects have directly benefited more than 200,000 lives across eight states, through disability inclusive projects, food banks, shelters and more.

“The Anthem Foundation remains committed to ensuring that families across the country have access to programs and resources that improve the health and wellness of our communities,” said Lance Chrisman, executive director of the Anthem Foundation. “Our collaboration with the Lions to support the All-Inclusive Playground is another example of how, together, we are working to ensure that all children have access to safe places and opportunities to live active lifestyles.”

Monica Dailey, a local former special education teacher, advised the Lions on their new playground. Inclusivity is paramount for her. “Separating children from each other isn’t the answer,” she says. “Inclusion teaches compassion and acceptance. And everyone benefits from that.”

Visit lionsclubs.org to learn how Campaign 100 supports the work of Lions to help people with disabilities lead more independent, productive and fulfilling lives.


Cassandra Rotolo is the marketing communications specialist for Lions Clubs International Foundation.