By Traci Chapman
Mustang’s first ever all-inclusive playground recently achieved yet another milestone, as it was selected as a national award finalist – among more than 50 applicants for the honor.
Brittany’s Play Adventure was one of five finalists for the Park Champion award, given through National Recreation and Park Association’s Park Champion Initiative. The playground, which celebrated its official opening June 3, was made possible by Mustang Parks Foundation, which collaborated with the city of Mustang to create a fully inclusive playground accessible by all children and adults, specifically those who faced physical and mental challenges and who could not always take advantage of traditional play spaces.
“I came across an email from the National Recreation and Parks Association about a new initiative they were rolling out,” MPF founder and director Lynly Grider said. “I contacted the NRPA advocacy rep to let them know that I had already invited U.S. Sen. (James) Lankford to our grand opening, and that I hoped we would be able to apply for the award once the event was complete.”
The Park Champion Initiative was developed to provide a chance for NRPA members and those committed to furthering parks and recreation facilities activities to advocate on a local level. The initiative sought to bring awareness of the importance of parks and recreation facilities to try to curb federal cuts planned at the time, officials there said.
Because a federal representative – Lankford – attended Brittany’s Play Adventure’s grand opening, MPF could submit the playground and the event as a national award applicant; but, it wasn’t always a lock he would be there, Grider said.
“His schedule got pretty hectic around that time – his director of security, Steve Carson, agreed to attend and was in communication with me during the weekend, and he was able to arrange some time for Sen. Lankford to be there for the ribbon cutting presentation and playground opening,” she said.
Lankford, along with state Representatives Leslie Osborn and John Paul Jordan, as well as Mustang Mayor Jay Adams, were among the speakers during the June 3 ceremony.
As part of the Park Champion award process, Grider and Justin Battles, Mustang assistant city manager and parks and recreation director, went through interviews with three NRPA representatives last week; the playground and its June 3 event will be recognized at the association’s national conference, set for Wednesday, Grider said.
“We will be featured in an upcoming issue of NRPA’s Parks and Recreation Magazine and on their Open Space blog in the near future,” the director said. “Although we didn’t receive the grand prize, we’re still honored to be recognized in the top five.”
Brittany’s Play Adventure came about, in great measure, due to Grider’s dream and perseverance, those who worked alongside her said. Along the way, she was joined by volunteers who worked with several partners to make that dream a reality – not the least of those the city of Mustang. In addition to funds raised by the parks foundation, voters last year supported the playground, one of several projects proposed in a $25 million sales tax issue.
“There is so much that we can do to make a difference,” Foundation President Devra Anderson said earlier this year. “We are so fortunate to enjoy partnerships with organizations that believe in making this world better.”
For Grider and for many who became involved in the playground, the project was personal. Grider’s sister-in-law, Brittany Grider, is the namesake of the new playground and a resident at Center of Family Love in Okarche, a lifetime residential home and work facility for developmentally disabled adults.
“To our very special guests, you inspire me — you are loved, and you make a difference in this world by just being you,” Grider said during the June 3 ceremony. “To Brittany, my sister, you make me want to be a better person – thank you for accepting me and showing me your world of the most loving people I’ve ever met.”
Brittany’s Play Adventure is located in Wild Horse Park, just south of Mustang Town Center.