Jeanine Eyers watched her 10-year-old son Gabriel have the time of his life building and playing with dozens of other children.
Gabriel, who has autism, was able to play in a way he was never able to at the Adventure Park event at Red Deer’s Rotary Park on Saturday.
“It’s nice to come out and let him experience building and touching other things. He was sawing earlier and he’s never sawed a piece of wood before – he’s pretty proud of himself for that,” Eyers said.
The event, which was hosted by AMPed2Play, the City of Red Deer, Youth HQ and Kerry Wood Nature Centre, encourages children to build with tires, planks of wood and boxes and other items.
Eyers said watching her son play and laugh with the other children at Adventure Park brought her “so much joy.”
“Everyone is included and accepted here,” said Eyers. “There are lots of other families with special needs kids here too and that’s really neat.”
Nicki Penney’s three-year-old daughter Katie was having a great time crawling into a big blue barrel and rolling around. She wasn’t the only Penney enjoying the day, Nicki Penney added.
“I think her dad is having just as much fun as she is,” she said. “This is one of those things you don’t really want to do at home because it can be kind of a mess. When we heard this was happening, we had to come.”
Ashton Sharp watched her nieces and nephews slide a box down a zipline that adults helped them construct. If there’s another Adventure Park in the future, she’ll bring them, she said.
“We were thrilled when I saw the post online. Right away we loaded the kids in the car and they’ve been busy ever since,” said Sharp.
Brandi Heather, principal owner at AMPed2PLAY, was inspired to bring one to Red Deer after learning about one in Calgary.
“We thought Red Deer needs a place for kids to be inventive, inclusive, creative and imagine possibilities out of stuff that isn’t typical play equipment,” she said.
Heather said she hopes for Adventure Park to become a weekly event next year; AMPed2Play will have discussions with the city in an attempt to make that happen.
Some schools have shown interest in hosting Adventure Park, as the event has math and science elements built into it.
“The kids are like engineers and designers – they’ll tell you exactly how things work. They’ll actually test it out too and if they fail they figure out why it didn’t work and make the needed changes,” said Sharp.