The Building of Harmony Playground
"Every child deserves a chance to play." That tagline became a reality for the Clayton community on Thursday, October 22, 2020, when Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod officially cut the ribbon to open the Harmony Playground presented by Caterpillar at East Clayton Community Park.
The Town, in partnership with the Clayton Community Recreational Foundation and numerous community partners large and small, worked tirelessly to build the inclusive playground, which allows children of all abilities and their guardians to play together.
The Clayton Community Recreational Foundation, Inc., is a non-profit organization that has helped the community support family events, parks and other Clayton recreation activities for more than two decades.
Larry Bailey, former Clayton Parks and Recreation Director, said, "This playground was just a dream 10 years ago when the Town started designing East Clayton Community Park. Instead of just putting some swings and slides out here, we knew we had an opportunity to build something unique."
The Harmony Playground is that. Not only is it the first of its kind in Clayton, at least one of its features offers a truly one-of-a-kind play experience.
The playground's Music Area was created by the North Carolina State University Park Scholars Class of 2019. Each class of Park Scholars selects a "legacy project" within the community. The 2019 Class approached Clayton Parks and Recreation a few years ago because they wanted to build a playground for children with special needs. The scholars then spent the next two years working in partnership with Parks and Recreation to design, raise funds and, eventually, build the Harmony Playground's music walls and poles.
"There are have been so many people involved in this project over the years that it would be hard to name them all. From focus groups to donors and designers, this has been a true community effort," Current Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard reflected.
The Town of Clayton provided the land for the playground and funds for additional amenities such as expanded parking, shelters and bathrooms. The Johnston County Board of Commissioners provided an additional $100,000 to the playground in their 2019-2020 budget. The Town also received a very competitive Connect NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant for $89,810 and a GameTime grant worth $55,000 to $60,000 in savings from this playground equipment manufacturer.
"On behalf of all of our kids… Thank you," said Candice Collier-Lang, a parent of two daughters, one with special needs, who was a member of the initial community focus group that helped kick-start the playground effort.
The Town of Clayton initiated a public-private partnership with Clayton Community Recreational Foundation, Inc. in 2014. That non-profit, 501(c)3 organization has been helping the community support family events, parks and other Clayton recreation activities for more than 2 decades. The Mayor and Council dedicated land at the Town's newest and largest park on Glen Laurel Road, East Clayton Community Park. They also hired CLH Design of Cary to draft the concept and cost analysis for this one-of-a-kind, destination playground.
January Craig, the mother of a 6-year-old little girl with special needs, shares that she actually got a concussion trying to help her daughter on a playset at a traditional playground. She avoids them now.
"My daughter barely walked until she was three, so I would be on a playground having to help her just get to the playground, helping her get up the stairs to a slide that often times would end up being too steep for her even to go down," said Craig. "None of the children would interact with her, she's special needs, her mom is helping her with every step. And for me, there's no interaction with other moms either, because I'm very busy helping her."
For Craig, Harmony Playground means there will finally be a place in Clayton that's useable and exciting for all children, no matter what their limitations.
Children of all abilities need to be able to have playtime to enhance their growth and development," said Craig. "This is not always an easy thing to accomplish for children with various disabilities. Soon our children will be gathering in Clayton to play safely in this space designed with everyone's needs in mind."
Bridgett Bailey, of the MOMS Club of Clayton, says she looks forward to educating the community and children about the importance of inclusion play. "My son interacting with special needs children has helped him understand how to interact with them, and ultimately, I hope, it will lead to him having more compassion for special needs children, as he gets older," said Bailey. "I think this is something all kids should experience."
For further information on this incredible project by the Clayton Community Recreational Foundation, Inc. please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to all of the generous sponsors who have helped make this dream a reality!
Caterpillar, Town of Clayton
T&T Creative Group, NE Foods
NC State University Park Scholars Class of 2019, The Woman's Club of Clayton, The Clayton Civitan Club, Christine Taylor Trust, The Archway Foundation, State Farm, Johnston County Association of Realtors, Balfour Beatty, RTP Electrical Associates, Zaxby's of Clayton, Zaxby's of Smithfield, Rotary Club of Clayton, Hudson's Hardware, Premiere Financial, Terracon, Walmart and Sam's Club, Sheetz.