On Saturday, April 15, 2017 the Tennessee Occupational Therapy Association partnered with NorthField Church and the Edison School to offer a free carnival to celebrate the 100th anniversary of occupational therapy and to raise awareness of an adapted playground, Mary’s Magical Place, which will be built in Hendersonville. Occupational therapy practitioners and students provided free games, crafts, and activities that enabled children of all abilities to participate. In addition, area agencies and organizations that provide services to children with special needs were present to share information about their programming.
Plans for the carnival began when occupational therapist Evelyn Sholar suggested that we contact Rebeckah Dopp, Director of the Edison School. The Edison School is a private co-eduational day school for children in grades K-8 with specific learning differences and unique learning styles. TNOTA was interested in partnering with the Edison School to help promote Mary’s Magical Place. Ms. Dopp explained that the school rents their facilities from NorthField Church in Gallatin and put TNOTA in touch with Pastor Tom Haddon. Pastor Haddon was very excited about helping to support our event and generously offered space and the services of his staff member, Ms. Haley Forrest, to help us plan, organize and advertise the event.
Mary’s Magical Place will be an all-inclusive playground designed around, but not limited to, children with special needs. It will be a place where children and adults of all abilities can come together to play and socialize. The park is being built in memory of Mary Elizabeth McAuley who passed away in September 2015 at the age of 14 due to complications from cerebral palsy.
The playground will be approximately 11,000 square feet of solid rubber and playground turf, making it easily accessible for everyone. The main play area will be ramped throughout so those in wheelchairs or strollers are included. The goal is to have three pieces of equipment a wheelchair user can enjoy without being transferred from their chair. The combination of surfacing, structure and equipment will make the playground the only one of its kind in Middle Tennessee. Over $300,000 has already been raised in the first year of fundraising due to grants and donations.
Helping to promote Mary’s Magical Place seemed like a natural fit for TNOTA. As we know, more than 213,000 occupational therapy practitioners nationwide help people of all ages participate in the things they want and need to do. We help children with various needs improve their cognitive, physical, sensory, and motor skills while enhancing their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. Occupational therapy practitioners work to help children with learning disabilities succeed in school, promote socialization and enable children to participate in play activities.
The following is a list of the OT practitioners, students and community agencies that participated in the event:
High School Student Volunteers
Abby Sholar, Brooke Millspaugh, Alex Denton, Danielle Ward, Gracie Hibbs and Alyssa Castrejon.
Belmont OT Student Volunteers
Alex Billings, Alissa Madeinos, Sarah Glassner, Jenae Stevens, Katie Stewart, Emilie Cady, Maria Papdopoulos, Ariana Small and Karon Baggett.
Jennifer McClanahan, Evelyn Sholar, Lorry Liotta-Kleinfeld, Angie Salvucci, Brittany Work, Holly Thomas, Teresa Plummer, Bethany Crain, Joey Sikes, Jaclyn Williamson, David McGuire, Julia Jones, Nancy Ramsey, Kelley Carter, Nicole Singleton, Rebecca Pelham, Christine Watt and Yvette Hachtely.
Thanks to their efforts several hundred families enjoyed a day of fun and creativity in an inclusive and supportive environment. Although the event was free the event helped raise a considerable amount of money for Mary’s Magical Place through voluntary donations and the purchase of T-Shirts. If you would like to contribute to the building of Mary’s Magical Place please visit http://marysmagicalplace.org/