COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - After three years of fund-raising and planning, Columbus State University's Servant Leadership Program will formally dedicate on Thursday, Oct. 25 a new community playground that's uniquely designed to serve children with disabilities.
The playground, designed to engage children of all ages and abilities, has been built behind the Columbus Public Library off Boxwood Road. The 11 a.m. dedication is invitation-only, but media are encouraged to attend.
The senior classes of 2010, 2011 and 2013 in CSU's Servant Leadership Program have been working toward this dedication for years. Their plan was to raise money for a playground specifically designed to offer elements of play for children with disabilities.
The playground is behind the Columbus Public Library on Macon Road on land owned by the Muscogee County School District. Students and supporters of the program have raised more than $400,000 for the project, including a grant award of $50,000 from the Knight Fund at the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley, Inc.
Students need a little more money to finish the project, help with landscaping (Trees Columbus is donating and planting trees in a couple months) and to build a fence around the playground.
"This playground is the culmination of several years of hard work from the students in CSU's Servant Leadership Program," said Stuart Rayfield, the Frank Brown Distinguished Chair in Servant Leadership and director of CSU's Servant Leadership program. "These students saw an opportunity to create an amazing playground for students of all abilities, and even with a price tag of more than $400,000, they were not deterred and neither were the community partners they approached. The finished product is a result of what Columbus is known for — public-private partnerships."
The playground includes specialized equipment such as playwebs, climbing walls and "first floor" activities that are wheelchair-accessible It was built with these goals in mind:
- Engage children with many different disabilities.
- Get children off the couch and outside playing fun, interactive games.
- Bring together children from all socioeconomic backgrounds for fun.
- Provide opportunities for parents and children to interact.
- Build community in Columbus.
Rayfield said seeing the project finally come together is special, and she said there are so many people to thank for their gifts, their work and their inspiration. One person especially is William Turner Sr., the community leader who helped start CSU's Servant Leadership Program.
"Bill Turner, who works with our students on a regular basis, always challenges our students to dream big, and the senior classes of 2010, 2011 and 2013 took his words to heart," Rayfield said. "The result is a one-of-a-kind playground that will serve this community for years to come."