A plan to build a playground for children of all abilities and disabilities in South Elgin got a huge boost earlier this year when a local foundation pledged a $350,000 matching grant.
Now, the village is getting ready to apply for a $400,000 state grant, which officials hope will pave the way for the $1.3 million all-inclusive playground project at SEBA Park off State Street along the Fox River.
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The Hoffer Foundation in South Elgin was initially an anonymous "angel donor," said Karen Cluchey, chairwoman for the IM ABLE project. The acronym stands for Inclusive Multigenerational Activity Based Learning Environment.
The playground will be fully accessible by wheelchair, and will include a sensory garden, tree top swings, a sandcastle play area, a dry stream, bocce and baggo, picnic tables, a shelter and more.
The project is spearheaded by the nonprofit FUNdation of South Elgin, which worked with California-based nonprofit Shane's Inspiration on the initial design and programming ideas.
"It will be a lifelong educational environment" Cluchey said. "This (will be) a regional park that's going to offer so much for thousands and thousands of families."
Hoffer Foundation secretary Gretchen Farb agreed. She's confident the community will come through to match the grant, she said.
"It's more than a park," Farb said. "It's an environment where these children will go to learn and go to play, and get an experience they can't get anywhere else."
Programming will include school field trips so children of all abilities can interact through play; local social service agencies will be involved, too, Cluchey said.
The project has generated just under $400,000 in cash donations and $100,000 in in-kind donations, including engineering services by HLR Engineering in Elgin, she said. It also secured $53,000 in grants from entities including the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and the Kane County Riverboat Fund.
Local grade schoolers lead a fundraising campaign last year, and students from Kenyon Woods Middle School organized a fundraising 3K walk last month.
"The kids have gone out and really taken ownership of this project," Cluchey said.
Shane's Inspiration has helped build about 40 all-inclusive playgrounds across the country, mostly in the West Coast, plus Mexico and Canada, according to its website.
Several more are in the works, including one in Wheaton, said Marci Moran, the organization's director of community outreach and special events. About half the playgrounds include programming, she said.
South Elgin Trustee John Sweet said he expects the board will give an easy green light on Monday to applying for the $400,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' open space land acquisition and development program.
The grant requires a local match that will come from the FUNdation, Cluchey said.
Anyone interested in donating to the IM ABLE project can visit the village's website at southelgin.com and click on "The FUNdation."