Sandy Bright just wanted a swing that her daughter, Leanne, could enjoy.
Leanne has been confined to a wheelchair since birth due to Trisomy-4P.
The 19-year-old Culpeper resident was born with an extra piece on her fourth chromosome, which can include a seizure disorder and she is not able to walk or talk.
It made going to a playground a difficult task for the Bright family, as her other siblings and friends could play and Leanne would simply have to sit and watch.
So it was the Bright family’s initiative to provide parks in Culpeper with swings that would allow wheelchair-bound residents an opportunity to join in the fun.
Then it snowballed.
Culpeper County Parks and Rec Director John Barrett heard the pleas of the Bright family and took the plan one step further – an all-inclusive playground at the county’s sports complex.
The Bright Spot, an inclusive playground, held its groundbreaking Saturday, March 11. The accessible playground makes it easier for parents to keep track of children and allows children with differing abilities an opportunity to interact with the general public.
“What we’re trying to do is put down a safety surface that is very accessible,” Barrett said. “That will open up the doors for the inclusive play.”
Barrett said that after the Bright family expressed their desire for a swing, that the county sent out a survey asking about the need for an inclusive playground. The response was overwhelming and the sports complex was the location that made the most sense. Now, nestled by the baseball fields and the interpretive trail, the Bright Spot will give children an opportunity to explore their abilities together.
“We have thousands of children out here at the sports complex and they really have nothing to divert their attention,” Barrett said. “So that’s the reason why we did it. Everything just fell into place.”
Barrett said the price tag on the park is $329,000 and that fundraising is ongoing. The optimistic timeline for the Bright Spot being open is in the fall.
Franco Calabrese, co-chair of The Bright Spot Inclusive Playground committee and the adaptive physical education teacher at Culpeper County Public Schools said there was a definite need for the park.
“The closest one would be in Fauquier at the Wharf,” he said. “It definitely helps having it in our backyard.”
Sandy Bright, co-chair of the Bright Spot committee, said she was overwhelmed by the support the park has received.
It started with Sandy’s interest to put in a wheelchair swing at one of the local parks.
“You know you hope that the community gets involved and the environment has been very good and surprising,” Bright said. “There’s not a lot for children like Leanne to do, so this will be great and something I know she will enjoy.”
Dave Shafferman, of the Disability Resource Center, is also on the committee. He says that the park will be a game-changer for those with differing abilities.
“This is huge,” Shafferman said. “The problem with all the young people I work with, when they get into their 20s, all their heads go down when you talk about school and playgrounds. I know from my own experience with Polio, you sit in a chair out on the playground. It’s an isolated feeling. That isolation hurts with anybody suffering from a disability.”
During the groundbreaking of the park, Culpeper County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Frazier pointed out that many might not realize the need for an inclusive park. He admitted, he was one of those
“A lot of times in our lives we don’t have to deal with challenges, but we need to be aware of other people’s challenges and what they deal with on a daily basis,” Frazier said.
Liam Cornwall, 24, recently completed an internship with the county. During the internship, he helped contribute to the park project, which is close to his heart. Cornwall has been wheelchair bound for almost 13 years, and he smiled when talking about the opportunity the park would present for those like him.
“I think it’s very impactful,” he said. “I wish there was a park like this when I was a kid, it would have been wonderful. The only thing I could do with my friends was play video games.”
For more information about how to donate to help the Bright Spot, contact John Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org.