This brand-new playground is breaking a way-too-old barrier.
True
State Farm

Taking your child to the playground feels like a simple rite of passage.

But for many kids, the ability to play on the monkey bars is out of reach in more ways than one.

Whether it's a jungle gym they can't climb or a slide they can't glide down, children across the U.S. who use a wheelchair or live with other physical disabilities never get to experience park life the way other kids do.  


One father decided to change that — first, in his own community.

Matt West (right) alongside Doug Seegers, director of parks and recreation and a key contributor to the entire cause. All images via Civitan Smiles Park at Kiroli, used with permission.

Matt West is the president of the West Monroe Civitan Club, a nonprofit dedicated to serving children and adults with developmental disabilities. With the help of his fellow Civitans, local government officials, and different members of the community, he set out to make a playground accessible to kids with developmental disabilities so they too could enjoy playground life.

But to make sure it was done right, West reached out to Shane's Inspiration, an organization that builds inclusive playgrounds around the world and aims to eliminate the bias between children with and without disabilities.

Together, they laid the foundation for Smiles Park and began a years-long fundraising mission.

Numerous charity events and government grants later, the playground finally opened to the public June 3, 2017. The park features all the things kids love in a playground — a huge swing bay, ferris wheel climbers, fun houses, carousels, picnic areas, and more. They even have different play areas that spark kids' senses — from touch to feel to sound.

One of the coolest pieces is the Zipkrooz.

"It's kind of a stationary zip line," West said. "It just has a pole coming down with a seat on the bottom and the other one has a seat to put a child that needs assisting in. So [the kids] can slide or zip back and forth side by side."

There are even transfer stations to assist someone getting out of a wheelchair to slide down the slides.

And every play area has a rubberized surface to compensate for height requirements and give kids the perfect cushion to soften any fall.

"You don't have to go in one particular play area on a wheelchair; you can come in from any access you like to because there are no boundaries. There's nothing to stop you," West said.

Their next big step? Breaking down even more barriers by educating children everywhere about embracing one another's differences.

Together with Shane's Inspiration, the West Monroe Civitan Club will be heading to elementary schools to help teach kids with and without disabilities the value of playing together and the steps they can take to start doing that.

In an ideal world, this will become "the new normal."

West hopes to find ways to implement these blueprints for accessible playgrounds into elementary school systems and beyond.

"Hopefully, in the future, they'll just be called playgrounds, not inclusive playgrounds," West said. "It's not just a handicap playground or just where children with disabilities go to play. This is one where everybody comes together."

If you want to learn more about all the amazing things the West Monroe Civitan Club is doing, you can visit their website right here and get involved. Or you can watch this awesome time-lapse video to see how Smiles Park all came together:

True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

The recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg not only marked the end of an illustrious life of service to law and country, but the beginning of an unprecedented judicial nomination process. While Ginsburg's spot on the Supreme Court sits open, politicians and regular Americans alike argue over whether or not it should be filled immediately, basing their arguments on past practices and partisan points.

When a Supreme Court vacancy came up in February of 2016, nine months before the election, Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell refused to even take up a hearing to consider President Obama's pick for the seat, arguing that it was an election year and the people should have a say in who that seat goes to.

Four years later, a mere six weeks before the election, that reasoning has gone out the window as Senate Republicans race to get a nominee pushed through the approval process prior to election day. Now, they claim, because the Senate majority and President are of the same party, it makes sense to proceed with the nomination.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


There are very few people who have had quite as memorable a life as Arnold Schwarzenegger. His adult life has played out in four acts, with each one arguably more consequential than the last.

And now Schwarzenegger wants to play a role in helping America, his adopted home, ensure that our 2020 election is safe, secure and available to everyone willing and able to vote.

Shortly after immigrating to America, Schwarzenegger rose up to become the most famous bodybuilder in history, turning what was largely a sideshow attraction into a legitimate sport. He then pivoted to an acting career, becoming Hollywood's highest paid star in a run that spanned three decades.


Keep Reading Show less

"Very nice!" It appears as though Kazakhstan's number one reporter, Borat Sagdiyev, is set to return to the big screen in the near future and the film's title is a sight to behold.

Reports show that the title submitted to the Writer's Guild of America, "Borat: Gift Of Pornographic Monkey To Vice Premiere Mikhael Pence To Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation Of Kazakhstan" is even longer than the first film's, "Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan."

As the title suggests, the film is expected to feature an encounter with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as well as President Trump's TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Keep Reading Show less