Hillcrest will open the first all-accessible public school playground in DuPage County on Aug. 17

Downers Grove SD58 News

Hillcrest School will open the first all-accessible public school playground in DuPage County during a ribbon-cutting and grand opening celebration on Wednesday, Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. at Hillcrest School, 1435 Jefferson Ave., Downers Grove.

“Owen’s Playground” is the result of a two-year collaborative community effort. Downers Grove Grade School District 58 invites the public to attend the ceremony and be among the first to enjoy this new, one-of-a-kind playground.

“The playground is unique because it will offer accessibility and fun for children of all abilities,” said Hillcrest Parent Peg Chaidez.

With support from District 58, Chaidez led a massive crowdfunding effort to secure funds for the project. Chaidez created the Dream Build Play Experience organization in fall 2014 and partnered with Abide In Me to serve as the fundraiser’s fiscal partner. Abide in Me is a Lemont-based non-profit that helps people with disabilities lead active, engaged lives.

The playground will be called Owen’s Playground, named after Chaidez’s son who served as inspiration for the project. After her son’s wheelchair got stuck in the school’s playground woodchips three years ago, Chaidez pledged to find a way to make a difference.

With District 58’s support and financial contributions from the Ronald L. McDaniel Foundation, Barbara Gulick and the Downers Grove community, they raised $600,000 to make the universally-designed playground a reality.

“When dedicated community members, schools and businesses partner together, big things can happen,” said District 58 Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli.

The designers of Owen’s Playground used sustainable and modern technologies to construct a durable playground. They also sought input from Hillcrest students, parents and educators regarding which amenities would be most enjoyed. The playground is designed to encourage creativity and activity among all children of all abilities.

Owen’s Playground offers:

  • A recycled rubber surface instead of wood chips
  • A relaxation station for quiet reading
  • Double-wide ramps
  • Climbing structures
  • Adaptive swings
  • Two Gaga pits (a variant of dodgeball that is played with one ball)
  • Wheelchair accessible play equipment

District 58 and Peg Chaidez thank everyone who helped make Owen’s Playground a reality, including the Ronald L. McDaniel Foundation, Barbara Gulick, Abide In Me, Gerard Agency, BCI Burke Playgrounds, Rosemarie and Dean L. Buntrock, Hillcrest School, 100 Women Who Care, Spindler Family, Champions Before and After School Program, Downers Grove Junior Woman’s Club, E-M Designs, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, Friends of Billy Rogers, Tina Kiker, Whitney Murphy, Friends of Noah and Laine VanHoutan, Ashley and Nicholas Chavez and many more.

Wolf Pack Development Group, Thomas Crnkovich and Michael Nelson provided project engineering and survey services for the playground. Michael Maloney provided landscape architect services.

For more information regarding Owen’s Playground and the efforts to build it, visit www.dbpexperience.com.