Hunter Brindle jumps into Matt Brindle's arms. Asha Blake/The Portager.
Several years ago, Susan Monegan, president of Fields Playground Group, noticed a lack of equipment for kids with disabilities at most of the playgrounds around Portage County. Her granddaughter, Mila DiGirolamo, did not have many opportunities to play on the structures because they were not accessible to her.
Monegan decided she had to put a plan in motion and make an inclusive playground for all kids to have fun.
After four years of fundraising and construction, Mila’s Hope and Rowyn’s Dream Playground officially opened in Randolph on Saturday.
Named for Monegan’s granddaughter and for Fields Playground Group Secretary Amy Decker’s daughter Rowyn Terihay, the colorful playground sparked to life as children and their parents finally got a chance to play.
“Sue Monegan is a powerful force,” Randolph Township Trustee Susan White said. “There’s nothing that gets in between the love of a grandmother and her grandkid.”
Monegan began by forming an organizing committee of six members and incorporating a nonprofit, Fields Playground Group.
The playground would need a lot of expensive equipment that would allow children with and without disabilities to play together without limitations. For example, the playground’s merry-go-round has spots that are accessible to wheelchair users.
The playground also includes a sensory garden, a double track zipline, and a communication board for non-verbal children.
Through corporate and individual donations, grants and a $250,000 allocation from the state of Ohio, the group reached its $500,000 goal.
Many residents attended the event Saturday. Some parents watched their children play with the new structures and others joined in and played with them.
“The playground is amazing,” said Kristy Arbogast, a 25-year resident of Randolph. “It’s been an empty spot for a while and it’s a great thing that they built this here to fill the space.”
According to a 2009 study, there are around 115,000 to 152,000 children with disabilities in Ohio. Many playgrounds have limited options for disabled kids. All children like to play. It helps them release their energy and meet other kids.
That is why it was so important to Monegan to build this playground.
“I never imagined when I pushed Mila in a swing so long ago that this would emerge,” Monegan said through tears. For her, seeing her granddaughter and others have the space to play freely without any restrictions was the goal.