KENSINGTON – While most of her classmates frolic on Queen Elizabeth Elementary’s playground, Paxton Cole can only watch from the sidelines.
The Grade 4 student has cerebral palsy, which requires her to use forearm crutches or a walker.
Because it also sits on a graveled area, the Kensington school’s playground is inaccessible for Paxton regardless of whether there’s snow on the ground.
Making matters worse, she has to stand by while her twin sister Ellen is able to use the playground.
“You’ve never experienced the look of longing or heartbreak when you see your kid wish to get to where her twin sister is, and knowing full well that she can’t get there. The look on her face is enough to let you know that it’s what she wants but she can’t do it,” said Paxton’s mom, Patricia Cole.
“I’ve watched my child want to play and unable to play on the equipment there. It’s very limiting.”
That’s why a group of parents started the Find It Together (FIT) committee to raise funds to refurbish the playground and make it fully accessible.
The hope is to have the build complete by the time the 2012-2013 school year begins this September.
Playground committee member Janice Kenny estimates the build will cost upwards of $90,000, so FIT is seeking help in the form of donations from the community and grants from the Province.
“Right now, from what we hear, people are driving from Moncton to Charlottetown to use their big, accessible playground at Glen Stewart School,” said Kenny. “We don’t have anything in this neck of the woods. We do want something that the kids can enjoy and feel included.”
Principal Rodney MacArthur said the new playground will be constructed closer to the school’s side doors and include ramps to make it fully accessible for Paxton and the other students with disabilities.
“Our school playground already is our community playground – it’s where people all over the community come in the summertime and the evenings when the weather’s fit,” he said. “So we’re already there, but we’re not accessible, which will bring people from even farther away.”
The Queen Elizabeth playground, which was last upgraded in the late 1990s, is like many others at schools across the Island. The equipment is old, but has been grandfathered into the Province’s school budget.
“In this day and age, you’re trying to develop physical fitness and encourage kids to be active, and they get to school and some of the stuff that’s there is not even meeting code,” said Cole. “There’s parents on this new committee that played on this same equipment who now are parents with children there.”
Those wishing to make a donation to the playground committee can make cheques out in-trust to the Western School Board, and mail them to Queen Elizabeth Elementary School, P.O. Box 100, 2 Saunders Lane, Kensington, PE, C0B 1M0.