Markayela Johnson

(Fort Mill, S.C.) — A years-long effort to bring York County’s first inclusive playground to Tega Cay is getting closer to completion.

The plan is to bring an all-inclusive playground to Tega Cay’s Trailhead Park, so that children with sensory, physical, cognitive or social development limitations will able to play together.

“Having an inclusive playground in our area will allow my daughter to experience the exhilaration of swinging, rocking, spinning, sliding or zipping alongside other children,” said Bettie Johnson, mother to an 11-year-old girl who uses a wheelchair.

She said her daughter would love the opportunity to spend more play-time with other children.

“I just wanted to get involved to help out so that we can all play together, both children with special needs and children that don’t have special needs,” said Lara Saunders, a member of the All Play Together board, the group leading the project.

The idea was first proposed in September 2016 and organizers initially hoped to build the park in Fort Mill, but problems with the sloped landscape in the Waterside at the Catawba subdivision forced the change to Tega Cay.

The project is expected to cost about $500,000 and organizers say they’ve raised about 60 percent of that through a combination of grants, fundraisers and other partnerships.

“We love all the support,” said Saunders. “It’s helpful because…we’re getting big grants from companies to build this playground.”

The group recently held a fundraiser at Clay Escape, a painting and pottery shop in Fort Mill.

“This is a way our community members can help and get the word out and learn about what our playground is about,” said Saunders.

The most recent fundraiser appeared to be successful in drawing community support.

“At one point during the day we had to actually go to the Mexican restaurant next door, to borrow chairs for people to sit in,” said Beth Langley, manager of Clay Escape.

Anyone who wants to donate to the project can go to Clay Escape and paint a tile that will be placed in a legacy garden at the park.

“We went and we sold 100 tiles last weekend and we’re blowing through them this weekend,” said Saunders.

All Play Together has a series of fundraisers planned during the holiday season and organizers hope to be able to open the inclusive playground sometime next year.