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Rock River moms, teacher, seek handicap enhancements for playground

September 26, 2018

WAUPUN — Playgrounds can be a very unfriendly place for handicapped children. Whether a child is wheelchair bound or suffers from autism, the slide, the gravel and the monkey bars pose special challenges that frighten and disorient rather than welcome them.

Two mothers of Rock River Intermediate School students and a special education teacher are raising funds to make the playground a friendlier place for all students, handicapped and non-handicapped alike.

The school at 451 E. Spring St. has 639 second- through sixth-grade on Waupun’s northeast side.

Special education teacher Brittany Horvath is allied with moms Naomi Beahm and Kendra TerBeest behind the cause.

“Everyone will be able to play there,” said TerBeest. “That is our goal.”

“Naomi and Kendra came together and said we need more accessible equipment for our students,” said Horvath. “Last May they approached me and we decided to hold a fundraiser. We have the school’s support and we’ve been working hard ever since.”

According to Horvath, it is past time to improve the equipment now in place.

“The current equipment is 17 to 20 years old,” said Horvath. “When we met to talk about where we would put things we learned that our buildings and grounds manager Mike Bos (now retired) had already looked at some accessible things a year earlier. Even though Waupun passed a huge referendum, that was not a part of their list. The school board has since said they will get us some funds to support our expansion, but at this point we don’t know how much.”

As the total price tag is $115,000, any help will certainly be welcomed.

More than $20,000 has been raised so far with a bake sale, a meat raffle, a 50/50 and basket raffles and a brat fry. Numerous donations of items and cash have come from physicians, residents and businesses.

“I’m totally impressed with that number,” said Beahm. “We’ve got a long way to go, but there are a lot of things still in the works to help us out.”

Grants are being pursued, but they take time.

The equipment is pricey, but the biggest cost is a “poured rubber” base. It is soft, so it prevents injury to both handicapped and non-handicapped users. The needs for handicapped students, however, are substantial in themselves.

“At least 100 kids will benefit at Rock River, not including the kids who would be coming up from Meadow View School,” said Horvath.

The price tag is $43,000.

“So we’re half way there,” joked TerBeest.

“We want the wheelchair ramp and we want to have all that because if we want to do it, it should be done right,” said Horvath.

“There will be wider paths for wheelchairs to get through and a ramp will allow them to go up to the play structure,” said Beahm. “There will be things for people in a wheelchair to play with – at wheelchair height on the walls of the structure.”

There is also a boat that allows a person in a wheelchair to enter and join in the fun. Other items include rollers on ladder rungs, balance beams for students working on that skill and a “cozy cocoon” for a child who wants some quiet time alone.

“It’s all about the sensory experience,” said Horvath. “Some students need extra sensory input. It’s all to do with touch, smell, sound, brightness. It’s taking in everything around the kids and how it affects them.”

New features will be added to existing equipment, so many childhood favorites will remain.

Fundraising has been steady, and surprising.

“When we started out goal was $10,000, and we’ve already doubled that,” said TerBeest.

“We had so many people in the community come forward and say they wanted to help us,” said Beahm. “Then we decided we’d either go big or go home.”

“Our boys are not in wheelchairs, but as things went on we decided it would be best to make things accessible for everybody,” said Beahm. “There is a student this year that is in a wheelchair and there will be others in the future.”

“There are many children who can use it,” said Horvath. “This is not just for the school, but for the community as well.”

The playground is only a short distance from Waupun’s Tanner Park.

Cost savings are also planned in that volunteers can install new equipment, supervised by company representatives. According to TerBeest, the company is grateful to reduce its backlog while the district is happy for the savings.

Until all of the details are sorted out, the women plan to continue their efforts.

“We’ll have one fundraiser a month until spring, and if we still need money we’ll continue through fall,” said Horvath.

“If we get more than we need we can work on the other schools,” said Beahm.

“The other schools have nothing and we’d like to join with other parents to improve their playgrounds as well,” said TerBeest.

The other women agreed.

“Access 4 Recess” T-shirts are being offered for $20 each (any size, youth extra small through adult 3XL). Forms are available at, and may be returned to, Rock River Intermediate School. For more information email access4recess@gmail.com or visit them on Facebook. Donations may be sent to Education Service Center, 950 Wilcox St., Waupun, WI 53963. Checks may be made out to WASD, with Access 4 Recess in the memo field.

“The current equipment is 17 to 20 years old. Even though Waupun passed a huge referendum, that was not a part of their list. The school board has since said they will get us some funds to support our expansion, but at this point we don’t know how much.” Brittany Horvath, Rock River Intermediate School teacher

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