URSA is looking for support to build a play area for medically fragile children

A render of what The Cub House Playground will look like when completed. URSA

This holiday season, a very special group of young Calgarians are looking for help getting outside and playing.

While most parents take it for granted that their children can visit a local playground, for some of the more medically vulnerable children it is an almost logistical impossibility.

And for some of those kids, that might mean being able to touch grass for the first time in their lives.

“Gambling is so important whether you are medically fragile or not,” said Pam McGladdery, CEO of the Universal Service Rehabilitation Agency (URSA).

URSA, along with non-profit housing provider HomeSpace, are looking to raise $ 200,000 to build a fully accessible and inclusive playground next to URSA’s Cub House in Martindale.

This will provide children, many of whom are in wheelchairs or use walkers and require constant medical supervision, the opportunity to have the freedom to play like their peers.

“Never have there been children who deserve so much of a spark of joy in their living space,” said Bernadette Majdell, CEO of HomeSpace.

For those who need more than acute care

At the Cub House, medically fragile children are cared for 24 hours a day by nursery nurses. The facility is one of a kind in Calgary

The facility was established by URSA after it became apparent that children who had received acute pediatric care at the children’s hospital needed more.

“These little ones were in the hospital and medically ready to be released, but there was no community operator who could provide the services,” McGladdery said.

These children were discharged from hospital still in need of high level care. In some cases after having undergone tracheostomies, or requiring to be on a ventilator.

Cub House staff help meet the medical needs of these children, enabling them to return home to their communities.

A render of what The Cub House Playground will look like when completed. URSA

A playground for those who couldn’t play

Michael Greenhough, a playground design consultant, said there has been a real learning curve to creating playgrounds that meet the needs of children with special needs and medically vulnerable children.

“The key here is really to make sure things aren’t cluttered, you want to make sure you have plenty of space, you have toys for everyone,” he said.

“When designing for people who are wheelchair bound or medically unable to walk, we want to make sure there are good flat surfaces, we want to make sure there are good large open spaces, and power. make them navigate safely with their owners. and securely throughout the site.

The playground will feature a variety of play stations and a universal level access carousel, as well as open grassed space.

“Our plan is to have a grassy area where we could play ball and in the yard, as well as specific items that could be aimed at people in wheelchairs and / or those who are not,” McGladdery said. .

“Children can get out of their wheelchairs and feel what it is like to be on the grass, probably for the first time, in many cases,” she said.

Greenhough said they also created a design that is safe for kids to play while still providing high quality play.

He said that this playground has two characteristics that he is particularly passionate about. First, a magnetic whiteboard that will allow children to paint and draw.

“It includes learning and it gives them something fun to play with,” he said.

Second, and most exciting for him, was the inclusion of the level access carousel.

“We all grew up with a ride – we all grew up flying rides – the key to this particular feature, however, is that it is an inclusive room and is specifically designed to be that room. inclusive, ”Greenhough said.

“Anyone can use it though, especially those in a wheelchair. The concept that they can roll up to the platform, secure themselves on the platform, have a friend with them, and have someone spin the platform with them – whether it’s a brother or a sister, you know, a parent, a caregiver – anyone can interact on this particular platform.

Make a difference for families

Kirsty Venner and Jeff Kundry are the parents of Becky, one of the children in care at Cub House.

“Before Becky was with URSA, we made her live at home, and it was very difficult because she needed constant care,” said Venner.

Due to their child’s medical needs, Venner had to give up his career. This involved managing her daughter’s health and a team of caregivers, which made it difficult for her to live a normal life.

Kundry said even normal daily activities like cooking dinner with the family were pushed back due to Becky’s medical needs.

Because of URSA’s care for Becky, she has given their family home a new home.

“We can spend some quality time with Becky now instead of just running her as a project,” she said.

The pair can’t wait to have a space again for Becky to play. As she got older, it was not possible to take her to the swings that she loved so much.

“She really liked the swings and she really liked being with other kids having fun. She seems to really feed and get the energy from these kids and she doesn’t experience it very often, so that would be really rewarding for her, ”said Venner.

Seeking community donations

URSA has already made deposits for playground equipment and contractors, but is seeking help from Calgarians to complete the $ 200,000 required to build the playground.

The organization has been able to align local businesses, nonprofits and community partners to provide matching dollars for every donation made.

“So any dollar a Calgarian can give over Christmas time or anytime – no amount is too small, and that $ 10 helps and turns into $ 20, and $ 100 into $ 200, ”McGladdery said.

URSA plans to build the children’s playground in the spring, and donations can be made on their website.

“I think every child deserves a fun place to play, and for a long time we haven’t had this opportunity for medically fragile children in Calgary,” said Venner.

“All we ask is to have the same fun for our children.”


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