Playground technology has made major strides in the past few years. The same goes for the reach of international marketing, apparently.
Ruth Fleck thinks that she was on Facebook when she saw the story, a few paragraphs about a swing made by a company in Australia that can safely carry a load of up to 550 pounds — or the combined weight of a person and his or her wheelchair.
She knew that she had to bring one to Bellefonte, not just for her daughter Miranda, but for all of the other local children grappling with cerebral palsy or disabilities that make it difficult for them enjoy a park in the same way as their siblings or peers.
“There are so few things that our kids can participate in and enjoy,” Fleck said.
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There are so few things that our kids can participate in and enjoy.
Time isn’t exactly on their side either. Miranda is 19 years old, already far too big for her mother to single-handedly lift out of her wheelchair and into one of the handicapped swings available at playgrounds and schools throughout the area.
Fleck and her family have been privately raising money for the swing for a little more than two months. The GoFundMe page she started has accrued $2,000 of the project’s $20,000 goal, enough to also cover the cost of the manufacturer-recommended safety fence.
Penny Brunner, of Smiles for Miles, an organization devoted to raising awareness of rare pediatric diseases and cortical visual blindness, pledged an additional $1,000 — as did state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff.
The Fleck family approached Benninghoff on the advice of Gina MacFalls, director of special education for the Bellefonte Area School District, where Miranda attends classes.
MacFalls is well aware of how challenging it can be to find age-appropriate leisure activities for people with disabilities.
“Physical and leisure activities are the things that we all love to do with our friends and families. We have many students and adults in our community with physical disabilities, and it would be a very positive way to expose our community to an innovative way be inclusive,” McFalls said.
The kids can play side by side. That’s our goal. Ralph Stewart,
Bellefonte borough manager
The Flecks have also found an ally in the Bellefonte borough, which has agreed to help with grant applications, labor and that golden rule of real estate — location, location, location.
When and if the swing arrives, it will find a home in Governors Park, where the accommodating layout allows for installation to occur close to the pre-existing playground equipment.
“The kids can play side by side. That’s our goal,” said Ralph Stewart, borough manager.
Financing the swing has fallen almost entirely to the Flecks, who are continuing to explore alternative ways to raise cash for the cause. Donations can still be made by visiting www.gofundme.com/liberty-swing-for-bellefonte.
“Now matter how long it takes me it will happen,” Fleck said.