By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Nine-year-old Eden Hoelscher rolled her wheelchair onto the playground at Holy Trinity School on a sunny October morning and was almost instantly surrounded by classmates ready to play.
This wasn’t always how recess unfolded for Eden.
Before the St. Matthews-area school built two fully accessible playgrounds, Eden used to sit in her wheelchair and watch the other children play. The mulch bed on which the playground sat made it impossible to navigate in a wheelchair, said Eden’s mother, Kylee Hoelscher.
The new fully accessible playgrounds sit on poured rubber surfaces that allow wheelchairs to glide with ease, said Hoelscher. The playgrounds were opened Aug. 11, the same day that the Holy Trinity Clifton Campus School was opened.
The larger of the two playgrounds is more than 6,000 square feet and includes a “swaying boat” toy accessible by a wheelchair ramp and a wheelchair platform swing — one of Eden’s favorite things, said Hoelscher.
The smaller playground is close to 4,000 square feet.
Jack Richards, principal of Holy Trinity, said the new playgrounds cost about $500,000.
They are part of the school’s $4 million “For Every Child” campaign, which funded several other projects, including the creation of the Clifton campus school, which serves children with language-based learning differences. The campaign also helped remodel the church’s nursery and renovate the Eifler Theater at the Clifton campus.
Beth Klem, director of advancement at Holy Trinity’s St. Matthew’s campus, said many are benefiting from the playgrounds.
The need for these playgrounds was “greater than what people would suspect. It wasn’t done for one child,” said Klem. “There are several students who have physical limitations that aren’t visible.”
Children with cerebral palsy tend to have weakness on one side of their body which makes it hard for them to play on a traditional playground, she noted.
Klem and Richards both noted that the park is open to the larger community after school hours.
“We’re proud of that. Parents bring their kids on the weekends. You don’t have to be a parishioner,” said Klem.
Kylee Hoelscher said seeing Eden able to play on the playground is eye-opening to her classmates. Before the new playground Eden was concerned that she was seen as the “child in the wheelchair,” said Kylee Hoelscher.
She no longer feels that way.
“She doesn’t see her wheelchair as a limitation. The playground has helped her to see that and it’s helped the other kids as well,” she said.