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Parents donate $800,000 to Greenville’s first special needs playground

Krys Merryman //October 27, 2023//

Parents donate $800,000 to Greenville’s first special needs playground

Krys Merryman //October 27, 2023//

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Brooks' Playground is designed to accommodate children as young as 6 months old with special needs. (Rendering/Provided)The Greenville City Council approved plans for the city’s first inclusive playground, to open at Cleveland Park in 2024.

A gift from a Greenville family to honor their daughter, Brooks, will provide a lasting contribution to other families with special needs children. Play pieces designed for ages 6 months to 13-plus years will create an experience for children of all abilities, ages and communities, according to the city of Greenville.

Brooks’ Playground will be part of the larger Cleveland Park renovation plan.

Brooks, pictured at left with her sister Ellie, was the inspiration for the special needs playground. (Photo/Provided)“We knew our daughter would have challenges based on images taken in utero,” said Reagin Foster, Brooks' mother, on the project website. “Brooks was born on Jan. 21, 2019, and a month later, we nervously left the NICU with our beautiful, red-haired baby, who would later be diagnosed with a very rare condition called Pontine Tegmental Cap Dysplasia. We soon learned that Brooks would be non-verbal, struggle to eat by mouth, be partially deaf and blind, and likely never walk on her own. We didn't know what to expect for her quality of life and could only hope and pray our little girl developed and thrived. Today, Brooks is progressing nicely and is truly the most loving child you could ever hope for, but as part of the special needs community, we have faced many obstacles.”

Foster said their family loves being outside, and Brooks’ younger sister, Ellie, always wants to play at the playground. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to find a playground where the girls can play together and have access to the necessary amenities. That is where the idea for Brooks’ Playground began.

Located near Shelter 6 in Cleveland Park, Brooks' Playground will be adjacent to the Julie Valentine Memorial, near Woodland Way and Lakehurst Street. Other planned improvements in that area include:

  • New Shelter 6 accommodating six picnic tables
  • New retention wall surrounding the Julie Valentine memorial
  • Renovated rain garden
  • Raised crosswalk with signal leading to the Hincapie Path of the Swamp Rabbit Trail
  • New restrooms and a relocated turf volleyball court

The Fosters donated $800,000 to the project, and the Greenville City Council approved the name “Brooks’ Playground” at its meeting on Oct. 23. They also outlined a $3 million budget for the project to include $200,000 from the city’s NSTEP Capital Improvement Funds and $2 million from the Capital Improvements Fund.

“Our vision was a place where Brooks could play outside with her siblings and friends,” said Foster. “A play area with equipment and resources that meet the needs of children with a diverse range of disabilities, both visible and non-visible, and a fun, inclusive, and sensory-rich environment where all kids can develop critical physical, social and emotional skills. This playground is truly an answer to our prayers. It has been specifically designed to consider all differences and provide multiple outlets for children to be active. We are so excited to help bring this special project to life and hope it will provide immense joy to children and families in our community for many years to come.”

As for the future dates of construction and contractors, Tara Eaker, Greenville’s director of parks, recreation and tourism, said, “We are finalizing the scope of work for bid. This is a work in progress with our purchasing division.”

Donor opportunities are available for individuals, businesses and organizations wanting to support public spaces carefully designed to promote play among children of all abilities. Potential donors may contact partnership development manager Donna Carver, 864-467-4091.