By Alex Temblador
The Pride Center at Equality Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, will make history in the next few weeks. How? They’re about to build the first playground on an LGBT campus! With LGBT parents raising two million children nationwide (and with one-fifth of same-sex couples in Fort Lauderdale who have children), there is a need for such a playground which will symbolize a safe and all-inclusive place for families to come together and allow their children to play.
The Pride Center has a long history of helping the LGBT community in Fort Lauderdale. They’ve put on educational programs for HIV, safety, and health, have provided counseling, and have fun events and gatherings each month. However, with the rise in LGBT families in their area, they’ve realized that they should provide resources for this new group in their community and one of the most significant ways they will do this is with this playground. “We are a growing population and one thing that has been lacking at the community center has been something to service the families and children,” said Richard Alalouf, director of South Florida Family Pride, a volunteer group that provides advocacy and support for LGBT families. Terry Stone, chief executive officer of CenterLink added, “The [Pride] Center has looked to the future and realizes that as LGBT families grow, centers must welcome them in new and unique ways. The playground is just one step in the growth of family friendly programming at the center.”
The interactive playground will be 2,500 square feet and will be assembled on Friday, October 16th by 200 volunteers which they are currently seeking. To pay for this playground, The Pride Center at Equality Park has launched a $75,000 campaign and they hope to reach a goal of $30,000 by the building day. They’ve also partnered with JetBlue and Kaboom on this project.
Robert Boo, chief executive officer of The Pride Center, explained why they are building the park: “It’s to provide a safe space for same-sex parents to be able to bring their children, and for the parents to be able to network.”
He added, “With the national legislation of gay marriages and state adoptions by gay couples, we are evolving to fulfill our mission. As our stakeholders expand their families, we must be prepared to respond to this changing environment and the playground build is an ideal start.”
To help launch the playground, the Pride Center held a Design Day on August 18th. They invited local children to participate in the design process of the playground which involved 20 children drawing spaces that they want to play on. Their drawings went to the project managers so as to create a personalized space for these children and their families.
Many of the children were ecstatic to be involved. The kids envisioned water slides, a zipline, a castle playground, monkey bars, tree houses, and wading pools. Adele Barsky Moore, age 12, shared her playground design: “I like rainbows and a lot of things that challenge the muscles – such as a rock-climbing wall, tire slides and tall slides. I’d like to see a Florida-themed playground that has underwater fish, a coral reef, mermaid designs and maybe a grotto.”
Parents of these children also had their own ideas about the playground. They asked for “eco-friendly materials, shade features, weather-resistant construction, handicapped accessibility, and clear sight lines to their children.”
This project is very important for the children of LGBT families. As Boo said, “The one other area the children [of same-sex parents] have issues with is stigma, having to explain to their friends why they have two mommies and two daddies.” With this playground, these children might be free from questions or discrimination in this new space of free play. Furthermore, they will have pride in the fact that they were involved in this project.
“A playground is more than just a physical space. Creative play is developmentally important for our children and future leaders. It’s a brain-expander, a friend-maker and a mentor-connector.”
“Together, with our national benefactors plus the support of the local business community and volunteers, we can meet our mission of providing a welcoming space that celebrates, nurtures and empowers the LGBT community and our friends and neighbors in South Florida while setting an example for other national organizations.”
To volunteer for the Build Day of this playground, click here.
To donate to this project, click here.
To learn more about this project, click here.
Featured Photo by Viktor Karpinnen