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Daughter and mother want inclusive playground in Somerset

The Standard Times - 1/1/2020

Jan. 1--SOMERSET -- A mother and daughter in Somerset are planning to start a non-profit organization that would be used to raise money for a fully accessible and fully inclusive playground, as well as to add American with Disabilities Act compliant playground equipment to other playgrounds in town.

Amy Lavoie said the plan is to turn the kindness project of her 9 1/2-year-old daughter Josephine into a non-profit organization. She said they do not yet have a name for the foundation.

"The plan is to work side by side with the park and recreation department to get this accomplished," Amy said. "The main aspect will be getting the necessary donations to offset the full cost."

Amy said that children like her daughter, who use wheelchairs, have no playground to play at in Somerset since the playgrounds the town does have are not accessible to wheelchairs.

"This sparked us to change this," Amy said.

Amy said there is an accessible playground in Fairhaven called Everybody's Playground at the Leroy L. Wood School.

Amy said she does not yet know where in town an inclusive playground would be located. She said that would be worked out with the Somerset Playground and Recreation Department. She said there are still playgrounds in town that need to be updated or replaced. She said they talked about adding equipment to the existing playgrounds that would be accessible for children with disabilities.

"But what we dream is creating a playground for every child where we wouldn't have to leave town on Jo's bad days with her connective tissue disease," Amy said. "The equipment we want is handicapped accessible for those using wheelchairs and any other mobility aids."

Amy said the foundation would have to raise well over $100,000 to make an inclusive playground a reality.

"This playground would be a true labor of love for our town where no child is left behind," Amy said.

Somerset Recreation Director Barry Fontaine said Josephine, with the help of her mother, recently gave a presentation to the Playground and Recreation Commission about inclusive playgrounds.

Fontaine said that an inclusive playground had been proposed by Somerset School Committee member Melissa Terra in 2011.

Fontaine said the Lavoies said they would come back with ideas for inclusive playground equipment for the playgrounds at the South Field Complex and O'Neill Field, which he is planning to ask for Community Preservation funding for next year. He said raising money would also help with those projects.

Fontaine said Josephine did some research on inclusive playgrounds and showed the commission pictures of inclusive playground equipment. He said Josephine explained what an inclusive playground is to the commission.

Fontaine said some playground equipment in Somerset is inclusive, but there is not one playground that is totally inclusive. He said there are now Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for playgrounds.

"They were very positive and upbeat," Fontaine said of the Lavoies.

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