After months of planning, an all-inclusive playground officially opened at Pendleton Park in Harlingen on Wednesday.
“Just seeing the children’s faces and their faces lighting up at the idea of being able to play all together, no one’s excluded,” said Harlingen Consolidated School District Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos. “It’s an amazing day for our school district and the school community.”
The $400,000 project, one of three all-inclusive playgrounds located in the city, became the first to officially open.
“This isn’t just for Special Ed students, this isn’t just for non-disabled students, this is for all students,” said HCISD Special Education Department Director Daniel Garza. “They get to do it as a group and learn from each other and partake from each other.”
HCISD said the playgrounds are the first of its kind south of San Antonio.
“This is a jump start for the kids to really have a change in their trajectory on how they’re going to get together, and come together as a community,” Cavazos said.
For years, Velma Torres saw the heartbreak her son Dominic went through–unable to enjoy himself at a park.
“There was only a couple of kids in a wheelchair, so when we go out on the field trips, they would just sit there and watch,” Torres said. “They couldn’t do anything so to me it was, ‘Why do we bring these kids if they can’t do anything?’”
21 years later, Dominic is finally on a swing, with a smile from ear to ear. Torres worked closely with the city and school district to bring the wheelchair accessible swing to life.
“It changes everything,” said Torres. “Now we can all come to the park. Not just Dominic and I, but everybody. Everybody can enjoy it, and it’s finally here, today finally came so we’re really excited,” said Torres.