It’s been an amazing week of fun and design at Bennett’s Village. We came together to gather community input on Tuesday, we had an AMAZING event at the Cardinals for Bennett’s Village Fundraiser, and we have the first design meeting for the Hallowheels event today, which focuses on providing kids in wheelchairs with awesome Halloween costumes.
Last night before the game, I was asked to say a few words about Bennett and the work of Bennett’s Village. Here’s what I said–
Bennett was like most Kindergartners. He liked to play Pokemon. He loved art and music and reading. He loved to collect rocks. He liked to play with his friends. He idolized his big sister, even when they were fighting like cats and dogs.
He was HILARIOUS.
And like most kids, he loved to play.
Unlike most kids, his muscles didn’t work very well and he used a powerchair to get around.
Unfortunately most playgrounds are not designed for kids or adults in wheelchairs.
Think about it–think about the mulch and the mud and the steps…they just aren’t designed for anyone with wheels. Or who need to take lots of breaks, maybe all by themselves. Or for those who need shady cool places to rest.
We would drive all the way to Richmond just so Bennett could play with his family and friends. He loved the [Soar365 all-abilities] playground in Richmond. He didn’t need a grownup to push him or carry him. He could go wherever he wanted whenever he wanted.
He could play…just like everyone else.
Last February, Bennett got very sick and passed away. We were and still are…devastated. The day after he died his dad and I were walking back from his school, through the playground. We turned to each other and said…
What if we build a place where ALL could play? Where Bennett and his friends and his cousins and his sister and his grandparents could come together for birthday parties and playdates?Where he wouldn’t need a grown up to carry him around? Where all people, young and old, those who use their legs to get around and those who use wheels to get around, those who could see well and those who had trouble seeing, those with broken legs and broken hearts could come together and find a place to play?
….And Bennett’s Village was born.
The City of Charlottesville has agreed to give us the land if we raise the money. Pen Park will be the site of the region’s first multi-generational, all-abilities playground.
But it is going to take ALL of us working together.
You all are already part of Bennett’s Village. By being here tonight, you have brought your dollars and your hearts and we cannot thank you enough. To the the players, the volunteers, and everyone in the stands…it took a village to care for our son and will take an even bigger one to build this playground.
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Even if you weren’t at the game last night, you are ALL part of Bennett’s Village. Part of our dream to build a place where ALL can play. To build a more inclusive community for everyone.
I am so grateful for each and every one of you.
Kara McClurken (Bennett’s mama)