Members and leaders at Gardendale-Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church are raising money for several additions to its play area that would make it handicapped accessible.

According to Tara Salters, the fundraising chair for the church’s playground committee, the idea for the playground started as an idea by the church’s Childhood Enrichment Center (CEC) a few years ago, and it has gained significant momentum over the past six months. The project is now being handled by the church’s children’s ministry.

The project has three planned phases that would cost about $125,000 total. Around $65,000 is needed to complete the first phase, and the church is over halfway to that goal with about $40,000 raised so far. If everything goes according to plan, Salters said she hopes the project will break ground on Oct. 1.

One of the first things to be added to the playground is rubber artificial turf, similar to the bouncy turf at Miracle Field, that can help accommodate wheelchairs and crutches. There are also shades in the plans to keep the playground from getting too hot in the spring and summer. In the project’s second phase,the playground board hopes to add toys and play areas that improve strength and balance. The third phase has plans for a small splash pad. There will also be an area for kids 3-12 years old and another for two-and-three-year-old children.

Tara said the idea for the additions came after she and other members realized that some handicapped children that were part of the CEC could not use much of the playground equipment and were uncomfortable in the wood chip bedding the playground equipment currently sits on.

So far the church has raised money with the sale of crosses, a charity golf tournament and a booth at the 2011 Gardendale Magnolia Festival. The church plans to launch a letter-writing campaign to local businesses and also a donor tree, with varying degrees of patronage at $250, $500, $750 and $1,000 levels. Proceeds from church’s annual Kingdom Kids consignment sale will also go towards the project.

Anyone interested in donating to the playground project fund can contact Amy Sizemore with the church’s children’s ministry at or 631-7631. For more information, visit .

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