By Jeff Todd
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Jamie Jenkins says there is just one thing missing for her kids to have a childhood like any other, an accessible playground.
“Just because they may be in a wheel chair or aren’t able to talk doesn’t mean they don’t understand or that they don’t deserve to have a typical childhood to play,” said Jenkins.
Jamie has adopted four kids, Riley, Angel Cayden and Ashaun. They all have special needs.
“Ashaun is seven and we adopted him when he was three. His grandfather shook and beat him to the point he wasn’t supposed to survive. He’s still unable to walk or talk or eat, but is smart and happy all the time,” Jamie said.
She started working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation a year ago on a wish for her son Ashaun.
“His two favorite things are being around other kids and going fast,” Jamie said about Ashaun. “When we were out in the community we realized there’s not a lot of places to do that. We can only go roller-skating so many times. And so we thought about a park because kids want to play at parks.”
Soon the City of Aurora and the Aurora Rotary Club were on board and raising money. Arapahoe County Open Space matched some of the money needed to build the playground.
Inclusive playgrounds are still very rare because they’re extremely expensive to build. But with the potential to serve thousands of families their need has never been greater.
“If you go sit at the first floor of Children’s Hospital for even an hour or two you’ll see that we aren’t rare, and there is a great deal of families that go through the struggles and challenges I guess is a better word, with the children with special needs,” Jamie said.
Ashaun’s playground will break ground in early 2019 and should be finished in the summer. It’s filled with sound, color, textures accessible to all kids.
While enough money has been raised to start construction, but not all equipment is covered. The Aurora Rotary Club is still raising money for the project.
“It is for our whole family and it’s for other families as well,” Jamie said. “To have people around that understand or have people that can help transition your kid into a swing, or not stare at them, because that’s the worst feeling ever. I’m hoping it will change everyone who comes to the park and have them leave and really think about everything and just how to treat people because they’re just people.”
LINK: Aurora Rotary Club
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.