The Folsom Family Fun Day event was held on Saturday, May 20, at Folsom Elementary. Families milled about through the bounce houses, games, vendors and a craft fair enjoying the unexpected sunshine. The event served as a fundraiser for Project Prosper Plays, an organization dedicated to making the playground at Folsom Elementary and eventually all of Prosper ISD accessible to all students, including those with special needs.
The inspiration for the project is Folsom Elementary student Nathan Gilbert. Nathan was born with Spina Bifida and uses a wheelchair to get around. The current playground equipment at the school is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but mulch, grass and unleveled areas make maneuvering his wheelchair difficult.
“Prosper ISD is compliant with their playgrounds, but that doesn’t mean accessible,” Nathan’s mother Kristen Gilbert said. “So we’re trying to move the process along a little faster by fundraising because they have a lot on their plates with the new schools that they are building. They may have a plan to eventually come and upgrade the older schools but that could take years. I don’t want to have to wait years for Nathan to be able to play on the playground. This is our biggest fundraiser so far.”
Project Prosper Plays raised around $15,000 prior to Saturday’s event. According to the bids received via the district’s vendors it will cost approximately $100,000 to upgrade one playground.
“Ultimately, it would have been great to raise enough to build the playground over the summer,” Gilbert said. “But that hasn’t happened. It is my hope that, eventually when building is happening, accessibility could be a forethought. It’s just not a priority right now for Prosper or any other city.”
She went on to explain how this issue goes beyond just Nathan and his needs.
“People really don’t think about it unless they have a child that has a special need,” Gilbert said. “But at any point in time a child can become disabled or even a parent can become disabled. If you are a parent that is disabled and you try to go to the park with your child, you can’t access the park for your child. That’s a problem.”
Giving credence to Kristen Gilbert’s statement that the issues with the current playground go beyond Nathan, another Folsom parent spoke up.
“My son has autism,” said Vanessa Holtzer, whose son will be entering kindergarten next year. “We’ve lived here about a year and a half and it has been a really great school district. They have been very inclusive and supportive. When he was younger and going to daycare, he and several other children would throw or try to the eat the wood chips. A more accessible surface would be softer and safer for everyone. There’s a lot of new subdivisions coming in that have these great playgrounds and it would be nice to have them at school as well.”
Nathan’s kindergarten teacher Alisha Balak discussed what it’s like for the boy during recess.
“I see Nathan with so many friends and wanting to play but there’s only so many areas where he can go,” Balak said. “We bring equipment out there for him so he can get around a little bit. For him to be able to access the whole playground would be wonderful. We have such a great community and everyone comes together. His family has worked so hard for this.”
For those that wish to contribute to Project Prosper Plays, they can make out a check to Folsom Elementary with the memo, “Playground Fund,” in the amount of their choosing. Another option is to visit www.youcaring.com/folsomelementaryschool-764913.