ST. LOUIS – On a warm November afternoon in Forest Park, the sound of children enjoying themselves, outdoors, on a playground for anyone of any ability.
“The Variety Wonderland Playground is a place where kids of all abilities have been playing since 2005,” said Lesley S. Hoffarth, executive director and president of Forest Park Forever. “It’s right outside the Dennis and Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center in Forest Park. It’s a great place for kids of all abilities to play. Forest Park Forever manages the visitor center and we take care of this playground to make sure it’s in great shape every day.”
This year the $280,000 project was funded by Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis and Forest Park Forever to enhance the playground, adding sensory panels and accessible parallel bars to make an everlasting change in the beloved park.
“One of the biggest new additions is a We-Go-Round, which is a wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round,” says Brian Roy, Variety executive director. “When you think about riding on a merry-go-round, when you’re in a wheelchair having to transfer or get in is problematic and takes away from play. But to have a We-Go-Round, where you can roll right on alongside your friends and enjoy the merry-go-round without thinking twice was a huge addition.”
With research and input from many sources, the Variety Wonderland Playground can make ease-of-use for all children.
From wheelchair-accessible slides to the soft playground, these Variety moms gives it their seal of approval.
“I’m so thankful to Variety that Joseph has someplace to play,” says Deonna Suttles. “Where he can play safely with all his friends even if he needs to use his walker, he can get on the merry-go-round with his walker so it’s amazing. It’s amazing. Just having the ability be a kid and play because sometimes kids are not able to.”
“Playgrounds were hard and coming here with the soft ground and the adaptive equipment has really made his life better,” says Mary Ellen Ritchey. “He feels more confident when he goes on playgrounds now which is huge. We could not do this journey without Variety Club. They really do live it with you.”