Lenoir City raising funds to build handicapped accessible playground
ALEXIS ZOTOS-6 News Reporter

LENOIR CITY (WATE) -- Three year old Kaden is full of smiles, but for his mom it's hard to know her son is left out when it comes to playing like other kids age.

"He's not able to come onto the playground because of his special walker, so he has no accessibility to any of the playgrounds in Lenoir City," explained Lenoir City resident Hanna Smith.

Just over two years ago Smith went to the city to talk about the need for a fully handicapped accessible playground. Now that dream is closer than ever to becoming a reality.

Lenoir City Parks and Recreation Director Steve Harrelson says they're close to raising the funds needed to build the playground.

"It's been exciting to see the community really jumping on board raising awareness but also raising the funds for the project," Harrelson said.

The deadline to raise the $150,000 is April but they're close. With the help of local groups such as the Lenoir City Civitan, Lenoir City Utilities Board and now possibly, Loudon County Commission, they have raised close to $148,000.

"Commission is supposed to vote next week, they heard the presentation last week," said Harrelson.

Smith says Lenoir City is already such a handicapped friendly city, this project would make such a difference in the life of Kaden and other children like him.

"Whether it be swimming, going to the park, going for a walk, luckily wave adapted those things here in Lenoir City to where he does have accessibility to those, but the playground would be the last step," she said.

Harrelson says 10 percent of kids in the county have some type of disability and right now the closed fully accessible park is in Knoxville. Farragut has a partially accessible park that they plan to model their park after.

The playground would feature ramps, smooth services, and sensory-rich activities.

If they can raise the funds by April 11, the plan is to apply for a federal grant that would match the amount in the hopes of building a playground that serves the needs of all Lenoir City children.

"If you have a child in a wheelchair he's going to be able to access almost all of the playground through ramping, but also if he has a buddy that's the fastest kid in Loudon County they're going to be able to play together," Harrelson explained.

It's a day Smith and Kaden look forward to.

"The effort of the community has restored my faith in humanity," Smith said. "Knowing he'll be able to come to the park and play with his friends and not have to be on outside."

If you would like to donate, you can contact Lenoir City Parks and Recreation at 865-986-1223 or visit their Facebook page.

If the funds are raised, construction could begin in January 2015 with the hopes of it opening that spring.