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Why this $3 million park near downtown Fort Worth is fun for everyone

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - 4/16/2019

April 15-- Apr. 15--FORT WORTH -- Fort Worth cousins Benjamin and Bentley love to play together, but that can be hard.

A rare chromosome disorder causes up to 400 seizures a day for 6-year-old Benjamin, his mother Laura Hatton said. Most Fort Worth parks aren't easy for Benjamin to navigate in his wheelchair, so the family routinely drives to Round Rock, near Austin, for a playground both boys can enjoy.

That changed Monday with the opening of Frank Kent'sDream Park in Trinity Park, an inclusive park that accommodates children of all ages regardless physical or mental challenges. The $3.1 million playground was privately funded through an effort that took nearly six years. New, uniquely designed play equipment replaced an older playground.

For Hatton's family, the Dream Park makes life a little more fun.

"This gives them a place to bond and build memories together," she said as she swung with Benjamin and Bentley, 5, in a swing designed for multiple people.

The park features a rubber surface that's easy for wheel chairs to roll over, a sensory-rich environment that includes musical instruments, special swings and a gently rocking seesaw. A special dome reduces noise for children with trouble processing sounds.

The park is the work of Dream Park Fort Worth, a nonprofit led by Rachael Churchill, Sandy Mesch and Corrie Watson. Along with the money needed to build and design the park, Dream Park Fort Worth also established a $250,000 endowment to fund the maintenance of the rubber surfacing.

A small but inclusive playground is also available at Patricia LeBlanc Park, 6300 Granbury Cut Off Street. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said the city has saved an unspecified amount of park bond money to build a third playground, but a location and design have not been determined.

"It just adds such a great quality of life to the fabric of Fort Worth," Price said of Dream Park.

Danielle Sanchez, an art teacher at Heather's Old Skool Village in Lake Worth, has been advocating for an inclusive park since 2014. Her son, 23-year-old Kiki, has Down syndrome, and will benefit from playground equipment that helps coordination, she said.

"These kids shouldn't be on the sideline," she said. "Here they can play just like everyone else."

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