Feature Photo By: City of Aurora – A poster displays pictures of the boy who is expected to get an inclusive playground, Ashaun, and explains the project in detail.
By; Eric Huynh, Review Staff
Every kid deserves to have a genuine childhood, even kids with disabilities; having the support and love of their family and experiencing new things, especially going on a playground.
Ashaun’s mom, Jamie Jenkins, adopted him along with three other kids named Riley, Cayden and Angel; they all have disabilities.
“It’s a lot of work but if I had to put it in one word, I would say humbling; I think when you see children fight just to live, be loved, and appreciate all the simple things in life that we [people] take for granted, it humbles you,” said Jenkins. “It almost seems pretty silly what most people end up getting upset about.”
According to Jenkins, Ashaun’s grandfather picked him up, shook him and nearly beat him to death near the age of 2. He spent nearly two months in the Children’s Hospital and wasn’t expected to survive. Later, he was placed into foster care into Jamie’s arms until he was expected to pass away. However, Ashaun defied all the odds and has grown up to be a joyful 7-year old boy. But due to the incident, he suffers from major disabilities; it left him unable to walk, talk or even eat, meaning he is forced to eat through a tube in his intestine. Nevertheless, he still smiles and enjoys his life.
“Imagine being almost two and eating and playing and doing all the things almost two-year-olds do – then the person you trust the most gets so angry that he does these things to you and the last thing you will ever see in your entire life is him because all of a sudden, your vision is gone,” said Jenkins.
This minimized Ashaun’s options of living a typical childhood; however, Jenkins contacted Make-A-Wish Foundation and teamed up with the organization to
help make Ashaun’s wish come true: to build a handicapped accessible playground. Eventually, they teamed up alongside the Aurora Rotary Club, Arapahoe County Open Spaces, City of Aurora Art in Public Places Program and the Parks, and Recreation & Open Space Department to make the playground happen.
“The City said this was amazing because the Make-a-Wish Foundation got contacted by Shaun’s family asking if they could build an inclusive park near her home for her son as this was his dream,” said Linda Witulski, the Community Service Director on the Rotary Club of Aurora Board.
Currently, they have enough money to start construction for the inclusive playground but not enough for all the equipment and site features; henceforth, the Rotary Club of Aurora are accepting donations and are currently at $158,000 out of the $250,000 the park needs.
“People are getting involved in this project because they know this playground will help kids, and this makes them happy; it makes them feel like they are doing a good thing, and it is rewarding,” said Witulski.
Here at Rangeview, the Interact Club decided to get involved in fundraising for the playground by hosting a community Italian dinner. They will be providing drinks and a four-course meal along with entertainment from the Rangeview Choir. During the dinner, they will also accept any donations and host a silent auction to offer items people may want. All proceeds made from the dinner will all go towards the Red-Tailed Hawk Park inclusive playground.
“I feel happy to help raise money for an inclusive playground because inclusive playgrounds aren’t very common to find and this causes a separation between children,” said Erica Carlos-Perez, a member of the Interact Club. “Building an inclusive playground would help bring children together to ultimately conquer a future as one instead of being in certain groups. I’m so glad to help that mission.”
In order to participate in the dinner, members of Interact will be selling tickets which will be on the February 9 at Rangeview, six to nine P.M. For an individual, it will cost $18, while for a couple, it will cost $35. Tickets will also be sold at the door.
This playground will be the first inclusive playground in Aurora and is expected to open in the summer of 2019.
“I’m pretty psyched; it’s pretty exciting to see something that you know will better a community and be the first of many that will hopefully come,” said Nathan Berhe, secretary of the club. “Knowing that I was able to contribute in some tiny way is a great feeling and the passion and the hard work that a lot of people putting in it really shows how great of a cause it is.”
Jenkins believes that the amount of people aiding in building the playground is inspiring and portrays the playground as a place for everyone rather than just for disabled kids.
If you want to assist in the construction of the inclusive park, you can come partake in the dinner or donate online through the Aurora Rotary Club.