Special Play 4 Special Kids donation brings aquatic wheelchairs to Piratesville Splash Pad at Byerly Park
Trips to the Piratesville Splash Pad at the Byerly Park Recreation Complex are now offering more opportunities for fun among children with disabilities, thanks to a donation of aquatic wheelchairs organized by a Special Play 4 Special Kids campaign.
The special wheelchairs, which can be completely submerged, greatly improve access to the children’s water play facility for patrons with physical disabilities. They are available on request at the ticket gate of the Piratesville Splash Pad, found at 1109 14th St. Parents and guardians alone are responsible for use of the wheelchairs, which can accommodate up to 350 pounds.
The group behind the wheelchairs, Special Play 4 Special Kids, was organized by Angela Murph and Melissa Shumate.
“We wanted all children to be able to play and enjoy the splash pad together, instead of having the children excluded,” Murph said. “That’s our mission, for all children to be able to play without facing boundaries.”
A campaign operated through the nonprofit Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Inc., Special Play 4 Special Kids raised the $3,400 needed for the aquatic wheelchairs as the latest in a series of projects to enhance recreation opportunities for local children with special needs. The City has committed to matching their investment with the purchase of a third custom-designed water wheelchair capable of fully reclining. Last year, Special Play 4 Special Kids worked closely with City staff to develop Garrison’s Place: A Handicapable Playground at Byerly Park, funded through a grant from the Byerly Foundation. Further improvements are slated for construction this year. They have also worked with the City of Hartsville in developing accessible equipment in other playgrounds, including Lawton Park’s newly built playground and the addition of accessible swings at Pride Park, also funded through a Byerly Foundation grant. The group has also enhanced the Hartsville Community Garden with a Sensory Garden.
Although the campaign began with the intention to make life better for children with disabilities, Shumate said, its founders soon found that building bridges in the community is just as important as advocating for new playground equipment.
“This campaign has been a learning experience and an asset to the community on so many different levels,” Shumate said. “Parents of special needs children want others to realize how their children are similar to typical kids, even though their children may walk or move around a little differently than theirs. Special needs children have the same desires to laugh, play and socialize with peers their age. They do not see their disability like the world tends to.”
More information on the Piratesville Splash Pad, including hours, ticket prices and special rentals, may be found at www.piratesvillesplashpad.com. To learn more about using the aquatic wheelchairs at the facility, contact City of Hartsville Park & Leisure Services at 843-339-2878. For more information about the Special Play 4 Special Kids campaign, including donations, contact Melissa Shumate at the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, 843-332-7750.