McKinney groups work to bring all abilities playground to Bonnie Wenk Park

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McKinney rotary clubs have joined forces to help develop an all abilities playground in Phase II of Bonnie Wenk Park, located off Virginia Parkway near Hardin Boulevard.

More than 2,450 students in McKinney live with mental and physical disabilities, such as autism and spina bifida. The playground would grant these students access to specialized equipment while remaining open to all children. The park would also provide sensory walls and areas for children who require quiet spaces, said Juli Smith, co-chair of the all abilities playground.

“We approached the city’s Parks & Open Spaces Department to see if it was a viable project and it was like a ‘perfect storm,’ as the parks department was working on Phase II of Bonnie Wenk Park on Virginia Parkway,” Smith said. “We offered to raise the funds for a special playground with the focus on children with special needs [that would be]open to all children.”

The park is projected to cost $560,000, with Rotary Club of McKinney Sunrise donating $32,000 after an agreement with the city of McKinney. Two other local rotary clubs contributed a combined donation of $108,000 toward the project. Rotary Club of McKinney Sunrise projected that as many as five to eight thousand children would benefit from a facility that caters to specific needs.

“That number boggles the mind, but when one considers this is projected to become a ‘destination’ playground to which preschools, special education schools [and]classes and children from outside McKinney visit, the number is viable,” Smith said. “The rotary clubs envision a ‘legacy’ playground which will last for many years.”

All abilities playgrounds are fairly uncommon to the area. Currently, many McKinney families travel to Hope Park in Frisco. These families will soon be able to utilize a local facility without fear and frustrations of unfavorable playground equipment, Smith said.

“All partners have been involved in the design since we began this project and reflect the needs of the families who will be the beneficiaries of the playground,” she said. “At the same time, the playground will reflect the overall ambiance of the entire park.”

Rotary Club of McKinney Sunrise submitted a grant proposal to the McKinney Community Development Corp. and plans to present it at the next board meeting May 26. An opening date for the playground has not been set and fundraising efforts are ongoing. The club is also partnering with several local businesses in order to raise awareness and funds.

“My personal opinion is that this project requires higher visibility in the community to make everyone aware of it,” Smith said. “Volunteers who are willing to be advocates to the community and those with whom they do business or are colleagues are important.”

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