September 28th 2020 – Easterseals Central Illinois and the Bloomington-Normal
YMCA are in the running for the 2020 State Farm Neighborhood Assist Grant. The
grant awards $25,000 to the top 40 causes, which are determined by an online
voting process that is open through midnight on Friday, October 2nd. Central Illinois
residents are encouraged to go online and vote for the Growing Together Campaign
to build an inclusive playground on the site of the new Bloomington-Normal YMCA
facility, which is set to open in the spring of 2022. This all-ability play space will
improve health, foster youth development, and unite a community. Vote online in
support of the campaign at www.esci.link/vote or search for the growing together
campaign at www.neighborhoodassist.com.
Growing Together is a collaboration among the Bloomington-Normal YMCA,
Easterseals Central Illinois and OSF Healthcare St. Joseph Medical Center, with
YMCA and Easterseals providing programs and services to enhance the health and
well-being of our community. This is a much-needed project housed in a facility
where children with disabilities and special needs are already being served. Having
an inclusive play area provides the opportunity for children to interact with those
different from themselves, creating a space where differently-abled children can
play together while fostering understanding, kindness and acceptance. We
anticipate a total cost of about $90,000.00 to create this inclusive play area. A
State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant will allow us to purchase Discovery - as well
as other - playground equipment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 20% of children 10 through 17
years who have special health care needs are obese compared to 15% of children
of the same ages without special health care needs. In Illinois, obesity rates for all
children ages 6-19, are between 17.7% and 20.5% with the largest risk factor
being lack of physical activity. For children who do not have access to outdoor
activities, that rate increases. With only one fully-inclusive play area in
Bloomington-Normal, children with disabilities often struggle to find a conveniently
located play area to safely engage in relationships with their peers and/or engage in
outdoor physical activity. Growing Together will provide a safe, fully accessible
outdoor environment where children of all abilities can play and learn together and
will provide opportunities for all families that do not currently exist.
Accessible equipment allows children with disabilities, developmental delays, and special needs to play in the same space as typically-developing children. In turn, this provides children of all abilities with the opportunity to enhance their social skills as they meet and play with those who are different from them. Accessible equipment eliminates the potential separation of children with different abilities, and, most importantly, encourages play. All of this contributes to the development of friendships and mutual understanding, the foundation on which strong communities are built. In addition, the Growing Together partnership strengthens our communities by creating a centralized, community-wide asset, through collaboration and teamwork. The project is creating a gathering place that welcomes and accepts all. A fully-accessible play area contributes directly to uniting our community, a key mission component of the Growing Together initiative.