Rave reviews as Easter Seals opens accessible playground
Plaza, amphitheatre, garden, and hardcourt surface also planned
Shrieks of joy and laughter echoed throughout the large new barrier-free playground on Mount Scio Road in St. John's Thursday morning.
"Everybody can play together, everybody can come out and just chat," said Hayley Redmond, who relies on a wheelchair to get around.
What does it mean to have a playground that she can access?
A big crowd was on hand as Easter Seals NL unveiled the Jeremy Cross Memorial Playground, which sits behind the organization's building.
When I was little, playgrounds like this simply didn't exist.- Ashley Martin-Hanlon
There are ramps and accessible swings, although Redmond's highlight is the pirate ship that moves — think a grandiose see-saw.
"This has been a dream of over a decade," Eastern Seals CEO Mark Bradbury told CBC News.
"This is not a park or playground of disability ... this is a park and playground of inclusion."
Bradbury said the playground is the phase one of what will ultimately be a total transformation that will include a gazebo, sensory garden, amphitheatre and hardcourt surface.
For Ashley Martin-Hanlon, who works with Easter Seals, the new playground strikes a bittersweet note.
"This is amazing today for these kids, as someone who was one of these kids. When I was little, playgrounds like this simply didn't exist," said Martin-Hanlon, who advocates for improved accessibility.
"I didn't get a chance for that normal childhood experience of going on the swings, going on the play structure. It means so, so much to them and so so much to me."
'In honour of our friend, Jeremy'
The playground is named after Jeremy Cross, who had cerebral palsy.
He died in March 2015 and the age of 29.
His father, former Bonavista North MHA Eli Cross, said at the time of his death that his son's disorder did not hold him back.
Jeremy lived independently with caregivers and went skiing, moose hunting and wall climbing, said his dad.
"His wheelchair was not a burden, it was liberating. He lacked the ability to speak but his communication was more than effective," said the senior Cross shortly after his son's death.
Martin-Hanlon agrees Jeremy had a lasting impact on people.
"He made the impossible possible everyday and it's such an honour to name this park after him," she said.