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About the Playground

According to The Association for Childhood Education International, "Decades of research has documented that play has a crucial role in the optimal growth, learning, and development of children from infancy through adolescence."  Playgrounds are a vital element in children’s play experiences. Although many playgrounds may be "ADA Accessible," such playgrounds are not necessarily designed to allow children with disabilities to play alongside their able-bodied peers.  Nor do such playgrounds address the needs of children with sensory (such as hearing and vision), developmental (like autism and Down’s Syndrome), and physical (mobility) limitations by allowing these children to play in a manner that best promotes development and interaction with others.

At this time, there are very few public playgrounds in the state of Illinois that are designed specifically with the special needs child in mind.  NOAH'S PLAYGROUND FOR EVERYONE in Evanston is intended to fill this pressing need.  In conjunction with the City of Evanston and the Evanston Parks Foundation, the playground will be built in Lawson Park at the Lighthouse Landing Center and is expected to be completed in spring 2008.  The cost for the playground and redesigned parking lot (additional standard and four total accessible parking spots) is approximately $840,000.  Noah's dedicated family, friends, and service providers formed a leadership committee whose mission was to raise $400,000; the City of Evanston funded the remainder of this project.  The landscape design and maintenance will be provided by the City of Evanston, and volunteers will provide an annual "beautification day" to maintain the esthetic quality and safety of the playground.  The next phase is the establishment of an endowment fund for equipmend and special projects as well as launching Noah's Playground and Beyond which will provide an accessible route to the washrooms and Lighthouse Beach.  

A playground designed for all children – special needs and otherwise – allows children to play as equals by incorporating elements like:
  • Accessible parking, sidewalks, paths to the playground, bathrooms, and water fountains
  • A "barrier free" ramp system so that every child – in a wheelchair or otherwise – can reach the playground’s highest points
  • Rubberized (usually made from reprocessed tires) or specially designed wood chip surfaces to help make the entire playground accessible to a wheelchair and minimize the risk of injury from falls
  • A sandbox that is suspended to let those in wheelchairs play next to those who can stand or walk
  • Bright colors to help those with limited eyesight navigate the equipment
  • Different textures to stimulate sensory development
  • Bells, whistles, chimes, and other noise makers to teach cause and effect
  • Quiet nooks and crannies to allow children to escape sensory overload if need be

    When all children can play together, they learn that although one child may be in a wheelchair, one child may be unable to see, one child may have speaking difficulties, and one child may just "seem weird," all children are valuable and can contribute. The lesson of tolerance and acceptance learned by children can carry into adulthood, helping to form a society in which everyone is valued, develops fully, contributes, and is loved...regardless of their abilities or disabilities. It begins with children like Noah who teach us that, in the words of one of our favorite songs, "everyone is beautiful, it doesn’t matter your shape or size, everyone is beautiful, when you’ve got love in your eyes." 

    In Memory of Noah Cutter

    Noah Aaron Cutter was born on May 13, 2003. Noah was born with a number of neurological anomalies. At first, the doctors were unable to tell how Noah's neurological architecture would affect his development because some people are able to overcome these problems and function remarkably well. Soon, however, it became clear that Noah's challenges would be on the severe end of the spectrum, and that he would have great difficulty with vision, mobility, and communication (as we ordinarily understand that word), and that his life would be a struggle with many obstacles to overcome.

    Noah passed away peacefully in his sleep early on the morning of December 24, 2005. The reason for Noah's death is not known, but those who know and love him simply and sadly believe that life was just too hard for such a little boy, and that he had done in his two-and-a-half years what he was meant to do: teach about love and tolerance. He has gone to a place where he will suffer no more and be at peace. Noah's parents, Julie and David, along with his sister Ali and many other people who love and helped Noah, dedicate this playground to his memory, and to all the children who will play there.

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