If you have been following along on my blog you will know that I like to use the space to “call out an awesome Mom” every month. The concept started as an idea from Today’s Parent when they put a hashtag out called “MomItForward”. There are so many incredible Mom’s out there who deserve to know that somebody thinks they are awesome. You can let somebody know you think they are awesome by using the #MomItForward hashtag or send me some details and I will nominate them here! So, my last two blogs were about two moms that I think totally rock. Check out the posts if you have not done so already. This month I am going to do something different. I am going to call out Andy Speers…A DAD!! What? Yes, a Dad, they are awesome too! So lets “#DADITFORWARD” too people.
Andy and his wife live in a small town outside of Guelph Ontario. They are some of the most incredible and dedicated school teachers I know (Seriously… the best). They have two small children who are equally wonderful. Their second born, Asher, now a vivacious toddler was born with Down Syndrome. From the moment of diagnosis, Andy knew Asher was going to change lives.
Issues of accessibility are not new to the Speers family. Given both Jacky and Andy’s line of work and passion for athletics, Andy knew having a safe, accessible place for Asher to play was of paramount importance. Looking at their most proximate park, a sad 1940’s play space, Andy quickly realized this wasn’t going to meet his son’s needs. He sprang to action with a community fundraising initiative he called the Power of Play. Taken from Andy’s call for action, he notes “The goal of our project is to design and build a playground which will allow children and adults of all abilities to play and learn together. When we think of accessibility, we are to quick to think wheelchair. Our group feels that an accessible park should meet the needs of all forms of disabilities, including physical, visual, and special needs (cognitive). Our playground will be inclusive to all, with many challenges and learning opportunities for all abilities. After this playground is built we are going to continue to raise money through annual fundraising events to add accessible components to other parks within Centre Wellington"
"Our playground will include the following accessible components:
an accessible swing - can be used by anyone, but helps children with a physical disabilities feel the wonderful sensation of swing back and forth. Also, allows children with low tone (like our son) sit up in a swing because it provides back support.
Ramps rather than stairs - we plan to have ramps go throughout the structure making it completely barrier free. No Stairs. This would also allow a parent or grandparent with a disability to enjoy the playground with their child.
All accessories and manipulative boards will specifically help children with special needs. They will also help others learn new skills. For example, we want to add a board which shows the alphabet in sign language and braille.
Most importantly, we are planning on using a poured in rubber surface around and throughout the playground which will allow a person in a wheelchair to utilize the entire structure and comfortably play with their friends and family".
Within a short period of time, Andy’s call to action, was “overwhelming” answered. Andy and his family raised the $200,000 needed to get this project completed. What an ashtonishing accomplishment and true testament to Andy’s unrelenting perserverence and ability to mobilize his community! There really is no stopping this Dad; he is on a mission to help his son and countless others have the childhood they deserve.
I love this last picture. This is Asher and his big sister enjoying the new park together. Something that would not have been possible just a few short months ago. Andy’s passion for his family and the power of play will shine here for generations to come. I can’t wait to see what he and Asher get up to next!