The Zach Hinish Foundation Seeks To Provide Accessible Play Area For All Children

c.w. longer elem playground

The Foundation’s mission is a fitting tribute to honor an exceptional child

There is a new playground at C.W. Longer Elementary School in Hollidaysburg, PA. With lush green trees as its backdrop and located near a community recreation center among tennis courts, soccer and football fields and walking trails, this park is in no way ordinary.

Officially opened after Labor Day 2011, this all-ability playground was built to honor an exuberant little boy who was an inspiration to those who knew him.

Zack Hinish was just five years old when he passed away from complications of a life-long neurological condition. To honor their son’s memory, Tami and Jeff Hinish established a non-profit foundation dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children, especially those with physical or cognitive disabilities.

It was during their search for a fitting outreach project that Tami remembered the difficulties Zack experienced while he was a student at C.W. Longer Elementary School.
“I noticed that during school recess there was nowhere for the children with disabilities to play. There was no accessible play area. The playground was comprised of old metal structures with wood chip surfacing. It wasn’t accessible for the children with special needs, and in Zack’s class, most of his classmates use wheel chairs.”
Since Zack was in a Multiple Disabilities Support classroom, a class for students with involved special needs, most of his classmates were excluded from playing on the playground simply because the structures weren’t accessible to them.

It was this memory combined with a comment made by one of the multiple disabilities therapists at the school that led Tami and Jeff to the foundation’s project. The Zack Hinish Foundation would build its community’s first All-Ability playground and it would be open to everyone.

Tami admits that she wasn’t sure where to begin so she started searching the Internet and requesting catalogues from a number of play structure providers. Not only was it overwhelming, but in her research, no one had only positive things to say about the playground vendors they had chosen.

Finally, Tami spoke with a woman who’d helped build a local playground in Altoona, PA that recommended Curtis Bischof and General Recreation. “This woman was also a mother, and had a no-nonsense attitude. I trusted her opinion.”

Tami recalls that immediately upon calling Curtis she had a sense of ease: “He took us seriously. We met in person and that was it.” The Hinishes started by determining the features they felt were necessary and an additional “wish list” of items to include if they raised more funds. Curtis guided them through every step by advising them on what features would and wouldn’t work in an all-access site.

Working with Tami and Jeff was a special experience for Curtis, too. “This project was really special for me and I was honored to be a part of it,” says Curtis.

The Hinishes organized a four-day build to complete the park and the more than 70 volunteers assembled each of the components. The final result is an all inclusive play park where everyone can play, even adults. “It was awesome to see parents playing with their children–not just standing around or watching…I’d never seen this before. It was amazing.”

To see other school playground equipment projects we have completed Click Here

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