A park for everyone, built by many

A labor of love for organizers, donors and volunteers, Grafton’s ADA-compliant All My Friends Playground to officially open next week
By 
CONNOR CARYNSKI
Ozaukee Press staff

After five years of fundraising and volunteer work, the All My Friends Playground in Grafton’s Centennial Park will have its grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, June 13.

The ceremony marks a special occasion for All My Friends co-organizer Diane Dyer-Helmer, who started fundraising efforts for the project to honor her late mother and daughter with autism.

The grand opening, which will occur on the seventh anniversary of Dyer-Helmer’s mother’s death, will be held at the playground from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The ribbon cutting ceremony will begin at 5:15 p.m.

Dyer-Helmer said completing the project after years of work is a thrilling feeling and that she hopes donors and community members attend the ceremony, which will feature free ice cream from Cedar Crest Ice Cream.

The playground is the result of fundraising efforts by All My Friends Inc., a nonprofit initiative dedicated to remodeling the Centennial Park playground so that it complies with Americans with Disability Act standards and is inclusive to children of all abilities.

The playground is fully ramped, allowing wheelchair access to the structures, and offers accessible equipment such as swings, a merry-go-round and a rocking pirate ship.

Dozens of fundraisers such as casino nights, bloody Mary walks, comedy nights and raffles — in addition to community donations — generated the funds needed to make the project a reality.

Portions of the playground were completed in fall and summer 2020 through community work days, when Grafton residents pitched in to set up the new equipment.

Work continued in 2021 with the installation of more equipment and a final fundraising push where engraved fence posts could be purchased by supporters.

The installation of the fence posts and other finishing touches made this year mark the project’s completion.

Dyer-Helmer said she wanted to wait until the fence posts and donor board were completed before hosting the ceremony so donors could get the credit they deserve for bringing the project to fruition.

While the grand opening will be held next week, Dyer-Helmer said the playground has already gotten plenty of use from families looking for accessible activities for their children.

“A lot of families are very happy to have it here in Grafton,” Dyer-Helmer said. “We’ve heard of families traveling up from Milwaukee to use it because of how accessible, beautiful and nicely laid out it is.”

A similar playground project is also slated to begin in Cedarburg soon.

Fundraising goals for a playground that includes children with mobility issues, sensory impairments and cognitive or development delays have been reached by the Cedarburg Friends of Parks and Recreation nonprofit.

The new playground, which will be funded by donations from community members and businesses, is expected to be completed this summer.

The Rotary All Children’s Playground, expected to cost between $400,000 and $500,000 will be built on the site of the former playground in Cedarburg’s Centennial Park, adjacent to the Cedarburg Pool.

The former wooden playground, built in 1991, was demolished in March to make way for the new playground.

According to a 2017 5-Year Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan for the city of Cedarburg, the former structure was in poor condition and many of the areas had been cordoned off as inaccessible.

The report listed several issues, including that the access point to the structure was no longer ADA compliant, some areas were unsafe and the spaces between fence pickets were too large.

The new play space will provide children of all ages and abilities a variety of fun and safe recreational activities. The playground will engage children through movement, creative play, strengthening activities, skill development, social interaction and multi-sensory stimulation.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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