Place to Play Park in Iowa
In late September of 2018, Place to Play Park broke ground, bringing to reality what had only seemed like a dream for two enterprising mothers of children with special needs. Four years earlier, Amanda Weichers and Sarah Corkery saw a segment on NBC's "Today Show" about Harper's Playground, an inclusive playground in Portland, Oregon, and knew they needed to build a similar playground in eastern Iowa. The pair enlisted the willing cooperation of the City of Cedar Falls in the development of an inclusive playground on one of the city's park properties, but soon realized they needed to raise $500,000 to get the project going. Corkery and Weichers went to work, using Beau's Beautiful Blessings (BBB), as the avenue for fundraising. This foundation, named after Weicher's son Beau, who has a seizure disorder and was born with a rare brain abnormality, was created to raise awareness and provide financial support for those struggling with epilepsy, brain abnormalities, and intellectual disabilities. BBB hired RITLAND+KUIPER Landscape Architects (RKLA) to work with the city to select a park site, create the initial concept design, and develop graphics to help with fundraising efforts.
The fundraising for the park began immediately and was slow to grow. At the time, there were few inclusive playgrounds in Iowa, and BBB had to fight to show the community and supporters the importance of moving beyond mere accessibility toward inclusiveness, and how necessary a play space like this was for the area. Raising the funds took four years and began with small donations from pop can returns, selling pumpkins, kids donating their birthday parties for donations to the park, selling $1 bracelets, and even Beau's longtime baby-sitter donating her wedding gifts toward the park. These small donations added up, however, and the momentum and story they generated landed larger donations by Black Hawk County Gaming Association, McElroy Foundation, Guernsey Foundation, VGM Foundation, Viking Pump, and many others. The City of Cedar Falls, for its part, stepped up with many in-kind contributions, including a parking lot, restroom facility, and utility improvements necessary to make the park a reality. The generosity for the project kept going with local contractors like Peters Construction (the general contractor) and Ackerson Masonry intentionally bidding low to ensure the project was successful. When taking all these contributions into account, the value of the playground development is over $1 million.
As seen in LASN magazine, October 2020.