Six months ago, a fire burnt down the adaptable playground at the Arizona Recreation Center for the Handicapped, devastating the children who loved to play there and its community.
On December 1st, the Arizona community and organizations like Fiesta Bowl Charities, Lerner and Rowe Gives Back, KaBOOM! and over 200 volunteers, some who even fought the fire six months ago, came together to help rebuild its’ playground in less than six hours.
“It was a whirlwind, it went so fast (getting the build organized),” ARCH program director Vera Martinez said. “From the start to the beginning and then just with the public announcements and everything else, the entire community came together…. We’re so thankful to be able to do this, otherwise we were like ‘how are we ever going to get this done?’”
The wheels for a rebuild started once the Fiesta Bowl Charities heard about the tragic incident, reaching out to ARCH to see how it could help. Since the Fiesta Bowl aims to build two playgrounds a year, Fiesta Bowl Senior Director of Marketing & Community Relations Jose Moreno said it makes “perfect sense” for the organization to get involved and build a new playground for ARCH, eliminating all costs for the center.
“For us, we want to give back to the entire state of Arizona,” Moreno said. “We try to [build] one locally and one outside of Maricopa County. We are going to continue to do this. If it’s not playgrounds, it’s football fields, we’re building community resource rooms, helping people understand that we’re more than just a game and we have a bigger impact than just our two bowl games.”
Working in tandem with KaBOOM!, Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority and Lerner and Rowe Gives Back, Fiesta Bowl was able to bring this project to life.
“They are such a deserving community and they really need an A.D.A. accessible playground,” KaBOOM! Senior Project Manager Bryan McNamara said. “(We’re) so excited that Fiesta Bowl Charities was able to swoop in so quickly after the old playground burnt down.”
The new playground, designed with the help from the children and adults in the community, was created with specific details for the children with disabilities that will play on it.
McNamara said the playground is A.D.A certified with “two large ramps that are wheelchair accessible, some accessible swings, and a lot of great pieces that are specific to the needs of the kids and adults.”
There will also be a rubber surface on the ground that is designed to absorb some of the impact should a child fall on it.
Personal injury lawyer Kevin Rowe, of the Lerner & Rowe law firm who sponsored the build, said, “the importance of play throughout childhood should never be overlooked.”
“Play provides children with the chance to not only create fond childhood memories, but also allows them to develop important physical, mental, and social skills they will need as they grow.”
Martinez said it was amazing to see the community come together and help them build this playground, which is set to be open for play in the next two weeks.
“When I saw everyone out there, I almost got choked up, to see how everyone came together,” Martinez said. “It’s just a wonderful thing to see everybody working together and people not knowing anyone and banning together and making this all happen.”