The children of Wheeling will soon have a new place to play. In a joint venture with Miracle League of the Ohio Valley, the Wheeling YMCA is currently constructing a unique, all-inclusive playground at its Elm Grove property.
When complete, the playground will offer new play opportunities for local children using wheelchairs or those on the autism spectrum. Planned play pieces include a Spin-Go-Round and a Vortex Spinner, both of which are 100 percent wheelchair accessible. There will also be a one-of-a-kind Brava Universal Swing.
“The Brava swing is the only of its kind in the world,” said YMCA Executive Director Adam Shinsky. “This swing allows a person in a wheelchair to safely exit the chair and swing independently.”
Additionally, the playground will contain a Serenity Spot, which is a specialized play piece with adaptations to allow for individual stimulating activity for children wanting a break from group play. There will also be sensory slides, sandboxes and an outdoor classroom, all in addition to standard playground slides and swings.
YMCA Board of Directors Chairman Jamie Bordas is excited to bring this unique amenity to the city.
“The Wheeling YMCA is very proud that we are able to offer a playground to the community that will be inclusive for so many people that are otherwise unable to enjoy them,” said Bordas. “The state-of-the-art equipment will bring smiles to many faces and continue to have an impact on many families in the greater Wheeling area.”
Shinsky has been working with Miracle League of the Ohio Valley for the last few years to bring the playground project to life.
“When we first partnered with Miracle League, the idea was to build a smaller playground near their field at the I-470 Complex,” said Shinsky. “There were some issues in getting that space, and since our summer camp and childcare services have grown so much, we decided to build a larger playground here for all children to use.”
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Some of the fundraising for the project was done in the early days with contributions from local donors, including a $10 thousand donation from Wheeling Hospital in 2018. The rest of the funding for the project will come from a three-phase capital campaign, which will also provide funding for other physical improvement projects at the YMCA.
The playground is expected to be complete sometime in July. It will be open to the public from dawn to dusk daily but will close for two hours Monday-Friday to allow exclusive access for the YMCA’s hugely popular summer camps.
Y Camp Adventures are open to children ages 5-12 and provide an array of engaging activities, including theater, art, sports, science, swimming and nature. This year, there are plans for theme days, guest speakers, special presentations and field trips. This year, there was a waiting list to get a spot in the camp.
YMCA member and non-members alike pay tuition for the camp, but sponsorships and grants have made it possible to offer scholarships to campers who may not otherwise have access to the program.
“Wheeling YMCA never turns anyone away for the inability to pay,” said Shinsky. “We will work with all families regardless of income.”
For more information on the Wheeling YMCA and its programming, please call 304-242-8086.
• Wheeling native Jennifer Materkoski is a graduate of West Liberty University and Kent State University, where she earned a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications. Before beginning her current role as director of communications and employee engagement for a global business process outsourcing firm, Jennifer worked in local media and non-profit communications. She is a current board member of Generation Wheeling, also chairing the organization’s Work Committee. She lives in Wheeling with her husband, Rich, and her three children: Mason, Mercer and Miller.