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West Kelowna mom plans to raise up to $750,000 for a much needed inclusive playground

A playground for all

Melissa Grassmick wants to fill a void she sees in the City of West Kelowna - the lack of an inclusive playground.

Grassmick's seven-year-old daughter Julia requires a wheelchair to get around after a blood clot that compressed her spine when she was 17 months old left her paralyzed from about the waist down.

She brought her vision for an all inclusive playground to West Kelowna council Tuesday.

"It's something I've always thought about but, up until now, I just really didn't have the time to dedicate to something like this," Grassmick told Castanet News.

She says she was at a local neighbourhood park with her two year old son last fall, and noticed how inaccessible it was and how frustrating that is.

"Now that he is older, it would be great to bring both kids together, but it really isn't an option.

"So, I thought I am going to pursue this. I found some contacts through the city, I contacted a playground designer and was off to the races from there."

The plan she pitched to city council was for a playground at the Westbank Town Centre Park.

"I felt that would be an ideal spot given the infrastructure that is already there," she said.

"It is fairly level, has accessible parking and a washroom building with an accessible component, which are big ticket things to add to a park if they aren't already there."

Grassmick estimates the playground, dubbed "Julia's Junction, an inclusive play space for all abilities," would cost about $750,000 to build.

She has already raised more than $12,000, including $10,000 from corporate partner Modern PurAir and their charitable foundation PurKids.

"Until we got council approval, I really hadn't been proactive to get the word out because we didn't even know if there would be a project to fundraise for."

Grassmick hopes to be able to raise upwards of $700,000 through several government and private sector grants.

While council was fully supportive, there were some concerns about the location being so close to George Pringle school. The area will be part of a construction zone while the school is converted from an elementary to secondary school.

Council asked staff to report back within a month on how to achieve such a playground for the community.

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