CARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — When having a child with a disability, it can be pretty hard to find a playground that fits your child’s needs. A group in Campbell County is hoping to make playtime accessible for everyone in the community.
‘Breaking new ground’ is what a group of young professionals, Caryville Cares, is doing literally and figuratively.
“This group really started at first as an opportunity to serve and it kind of morphed into an opportunity, not just to serve, but for young people in our community to develop and serve others and it all centered around the need to build a kinder community,” said Brandon Johnson, chairman of Caryville Cares.
The group formed the idea of an inclusive playground for families with disabilities in 2021 and has already taken on an ambitious effort. On Nov. 28 the organization broke ground on the playground site just off U.S. Highway I-75 at the Caryville exit 134.
“We even had our poster child, Craig, there. He has been a great advocate for us and to see him with his own personal shovel out there, breaking ground, was just really touching,” Johnson said.
Craig represents why this project is so important to Caryville Cares.
“He has used braces pretty much his whole life, but Craig is kind of all of our hero. He proves everybody wrong. You know, so many people think, oh, this kid may have some braces on his legs and he goes out there and plays baseball and all kinds of sports,” Johnson said.
The group also hopes to open the minds of their community about the value of every citizen by helping produce an educational coloring book for second-grade students in Campbell County.
“More than 25 classrooms full. They get this really cool coloring book. We have actually partnered that with some age-appropriate lessons for teachers to teach about inclusion and kindness,” Johnson said.
They still need a lot of donations to make the playground come to life but Johnson believes all of the work is worth it.
“It’s surreal. Now, I do want to be clear. We are still actively fundraising. We have gone through and purchased a lot of our equipment and raised about $350,000, in a little over a year, which I think is really cool. Our team, the average age in our team is 29 and so a lot of young people or a lot of people look at younger leaders in our community and think, ‘Oh, they can’t do that,’ and we are trying really hard to prove them wrong.”
The families of children with disabilities are cheering them on.
For more on the project and how to donate, visit their website at caryvillecares.com.