In Smithfield, two nonprofit groups have broken ground on town-owned land for a ball field and playground for special-needs children. In Clayton, a citizens’ committee has unveiled the design of an inclusion park there.
These are feel-good stories worth celebrating.
All children want to play, but traditional ball fields and parks present physical barriers to special-needs youngsters. That circumstance must be especially frustrating for families with both special-needs children and kids with no physical barriers to play.
In Smithfield, one individual, Monte McLamb, got the ball rolling with his vision to build a ball field for special-needs children, who have had to go out of the county to play. An inclusion playground was a natural complement to a ball field, and a successful fund-raising campaign followed. In Clayton, a citizens’ group asked the town for its blessing, which was enough to win in-kind contributions from the likes of heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar.
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Indeed, in an age when it’s easy to expect government to meet our every need, including our need for play spaces, the Smithfield and Clayton communities owe a debt of gratitude to those neighbors whose tireless efforts will yield a ball field and two playgrounds for comparatively few local tax dollars.
As with any project on public land, we worry about upkeep, which is to say that government is more enamored with building than maintaining. So we would ask the towns not to neglect the ball field and playgrounds, and we would encourage the private groups to keep an eye on what their efforts will build.
But for now it’s time to applaud the commitment that the people of Smithfield and Clayton have made to their special-needs children. It speaks well of the communities that many Johnstonians call home.