By Jeff Todd
DENVER (CBS4) – When Juliet Dawkins started taking her three kids to the playground, she realized quickly many lack vital access for kids with special needs.
“As we’ve visited playgrounds around the area, we have noticed that kids like Lucia are often left to watch other kids play,” said Dawkins.
Lucia has Pallister-Killian Syndrome, which affects her entire body. Only a few hundred people have PKS in the entire world.
“We try our best to give her all the same opportunities,” Dawkins said.
Lucia’s favorite thing to do is swing. The Dawkins started Lu Bird’s Light Foundation and began donating development swings so they could be installed in parks around Denver.
However, the Dawkins’ realized swings weren’t enough after a trip to an inclusive playground in New Mexico.
“It was so nice to see all the kids playing together, disability, no disability, just side by side, no barrier and we thought Denver needs this,” Dawkins said. “We felt this just needed to happen, this could happen.”
A year ago, Lu Bird’s Light Foundation started fundraising for an inclusive playground.
It came with a hefty $500,000 price tag. Juliet says she went to Stanley Marketplace and was immediately given a strip of land for the park. The park will serve both Denver and Aurora and is only a few minutes away from Children’s Hospital Colorado.
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Now the park is just about $150,000 shy of reaching the finish line.
“You don’t realize who is being left out until you have someone born into your family. Kids are being left out. It’s really a struggle for them to do day-to-day activities,” Dawkins said. “A playground is one of those places they shouldn’t be left out.”
The plan is for a barrier-free playground with special apparatus and materials that are safe for all kids.
“A playground is an important place for everyone to learn,” Dawkins said. “We need to make that final amount so we can do this and create our first playground then we plan to do more.”
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.