Van Buren Co. accessible playground gets donation

Southwest Michigan

LAWRENCE, Mich. (WOOD) — A fully handicap accessible playground in Lawrence will soon be able to expand, thanks in part to a group called the 100 + Women Who Care in Van Buren County.

The playground at the Bert Goens Learning Center, which serves Van Buren County student with special needs, needed accessibility upgrades.

Two years ago, the center completed the first phase of upgrades to the park through grants from the Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Phase one cost roughly $200,000.

Susan Reynolds, the center’s principal, says the playground opened the world for her students.

“Seeing students who aren’t able-bodied interact with their peers and being able to actually play, and get out and have fun has really been great,” Reynolds said. “Now we’d like to move on to the next phase to expand the park.”

The expansion would cost significantly less than the original rebuild. It would include additional slides, swings and workout equipment for older students.

“We serve students from kindergarten to 26-years-old,” Reynolds said. “Phase two is going to be great. We won’t have as many lines for the swings and more kids will be able to do different things.”

Phase two just needed additional funding.

“I’ve been in the early child (field) for 10 years, and I knew a lot about the playground fundraisers and the project,” Angela Burd of the women’s group. “I worked with a lot of the special needs kids in that building with the old playground.”

Burd decided that the expansion project would be a perfect idea for her group to get behind.

“We meet quarterly and our goal is to have 100 members. Everyone contributes $100 for each meeting. The idea would be that we would have 100 members at some point and be able to donate $10,000 to a given charity or fundraiser or idea like that,” Burd said.

The group hovering around 85 members, decided to donate nearly $9,000 to the park.

When Reynolds found out, she thought it was a typo.

“Through the donation with 100+ Women Who Care in Van Buren County, we are going to be able to add in another zip line and swings,” Reynolds said. “Those are always a hit and boy, do our kids deserve this.”

100+ Women Who Care in Van Buren County’s meetings are only an hour.

The members place their ideas in a hat. Three are randomly selected, and the group decides the cause that will receive the donation.

“You have to commit to donating your money, even if you aren’t a fan of the cause or you have some reason why you wouldn’t want to,” Burd said. “We get things done so quickly that was so you still need to do that.”

Burd says her group is looking for more members.

“You can just show up if you want to,” Burd said. There’s a contract you need to sign, just saying you’ll be there for the four quarterly meetings. If you’re not there, you’ll mail your check in.”

The group’s next meeting is 5:30 p.m. July 17 at the La Cantina in Paw Paw.  

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