Sensory Garden Playground offers free Play Days

The Sensory Garden Playground provides opportunities for side-by-side play to children of all abilities.

This summer, it will again provide free Play Days from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays, May 20, June 17, July 15 and Aug. 19, at 2751 Navistar Drive, Lisle.

Families can explore the playground's first phase, get their faces painted, plant flowers in the Fragrance Garden, blow bubbles, draw with chalk, and socialize.

New this year, the Carol Stream Public Library, Naperville Public Library and Glen Ellyn Public Library will present sensory-friendly story times May 20, June 17 and August 19, respectively.

Amy Teske, youth services manager at the Carol Stream Public Library, and her staff are participating to better serve all members of the community.

"Carol Stream Library is excited for the opportunity to partner with both the Wheaton Park District and WDSRA (Western DuPage Special Recreation Association) to offer fun programming for children with special needs and their families," Teske said.

Alongside staff from the Wheaton Park District and WDSRA, the story times will take place in the playground's central gathering area.

"The library will provide a table with sensory-engaging materials, as well as a story time that will be appropriate for children of all ability levels," said Ellen Norton, children's services supervisor at the Naperville Public Library's 95th Street Branch.

"We will also have information on hand about all of our fun programs going on throughout the summer."

As demand grows, more local libraries are offering sensory-friendly programming to include children with different needs, and the Glen Ellyn Public Library is no different.

"The Glen Ellyn Public Library is a welcoming place for young people of all abilities," said Katy Almendinger, early literacy librarian. "We are participating in Sensory Garden Play Days to spread awareness of our inclusive programs and services for individuals with special needs."

The playground's equipment is funded by corporate and private donations, and fundraising for the next phase, an accessible treehouse, is under way, said foundation board member Margie Wilhelmi.

"Everything helps," she said. "We're getting close to our goal, and if we meet it, we may be able to start construction on the treehouse sometime this year. We have hosted two focus groups to receive community input and blueprints are underway with a design firm."

Late last year, the Play For All Playground & Garden Foundation, the 501(c) 3 nonprofit developing the facility, announced it had received a $100,000 donation and a $50,000 donation toward the treehouse from two local donors who wished to remain anonymous.

On April 22, the Rotary Clubs of Wheaton presented a check for $20,000 for the treehouse to the foundation at the Wheaton Park District's Fun Run in Color, which will be celebrated during the Play Day on June 17.

"The Sensory Garden project was a unique opportunity for our clubs to get behind from the very beginning," said Wheaton Rotary Club member Steve Charvat. "Rotary prides itself on being part of a solution and making a difference in the lives of others. This project seemed ideal, and we are pleased to be involved."

This summer, the foundation will install the Sensory Arch, the second in a series of sensory-integrated sculptures by local artist Joe Gagnepain.

The arch, an 8-foot-tall steel horseshoe, will span the wooden bridge into the playground. Two more sculptures - Carousel, which spins on a central axle, and a Harness Racer, shaped like a farmer operating a horse-drawn plow - also are planned and under construction.

Beyond the treehouse, blueprints for the 40-acre facility include a playground for 5- to 12-year-old children, a water play area, boulder climb area, and multipurpose sports field.

"It's part of our effort to cover as many dimensions of sensory stimulus as we can," Wilhelmi said, "from size to motion to height level to athletics, for as many ages as we can."

No registration or fees are required for this year's Play Days. To learn more about them and support the completion of the treehouse and other future phases, visit

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