Playground for children with disabilities built from donations

Tuesday, October 2, 2007 | 8:02 p.m. CDT; updated 12:37 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Michael Ruh, left, and D.L. Gladbach put the finishing touches on a new barrier-free playground, called the Jack Dylan Kindling Family Commons, at Boone County Family Resources Tuesday at 1209 E. Walnut St. The playground was built with money from a memorial fund for Jack Dylan, who was born with a severe heart defect and survived only six months.

COLUMBIA — Paul Julian Kindling was only a brother for six months, but during that short time, the then 4-year-old helped care for his baby brother, Jack Dylan, who had heart defects so severe that doctors never expected him to make it through his first night.

“He wanted to be the doctor and fix his brother,” said his father, Paul Eric Kindling. “He was the greatest big brother ever.”

Now 8 years old, Paul Julian will cut the ceremonial ribbon for a playground named after his brother at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Boone County Family Resources, 1209 E. Walnut St.

“It just makes him feel really special that he will get to be recognized as a big brother again that day,” said his mother, Carmen Kindling.

The Kindling family donated $5,000 from Jack Dylan’s memorial fund to Boone County Family Resources to help build the Jack Dylan Kindling Family Commons, which is adapted for children with disabilities.

The commons differs from a conventional playground because it’s “barrier free,” meaning it has wheelchair accessibility to and around the play areas, signs that include Braille and various play equipment that has been designed for children with disabilities.

Even the ground of the commons area, which is covered in a cushiony green material called play matta, was chosen carefully.

“If they fall, it (provides) a soft cushion, but (it is) not too soft for wheelchairs,” said Michael Hartgrove, property and facility manager for Boone County Family Resources.

Hartgrove said that the company has also had an occupational therapist look at the equipment to ensure its safety and accessibility.

While the availability of the playground to disabled children and their families was one reason the project appealed to the Kindlings, the opportunity to give something to Family Resources was another. The Kindlings received help and support from the company during Jack Dylan’s life.

“In part due to the services they provide, we had a wonderful six months (with Jack),” Carmen Kindling said. “They’re really proactive and positive in a way that they support people and their families with special needs.”

Although he died in November 2003, Carmen said the money from Jack Dylan’s memorial fund had been on hold until the family found an appropriate way to use it.

“We had the memorial money for Jack, and it made sense to us to just put it in their hands,” she said.

Established in 1976, Boone County Family Resources serves about 1,200 people with developmental disabilities per year. The company changed its name in 2005 from Boone County Group Homes.

According to executive director Les Wagner, Family Resources has a $6.5 million yearly budget, which comes from federal funding that is mostly from Medicaid, state funding from the Department of Mental Health and local funding from property taxes.

Wagner said the money is mostly used for employing case managers and individuals who provide supportive services such as occupational and speech therapy. The company also purchases services from a network of more than 200 provider agencies.

Family Resources worked with many companies and individuals when building the playground. About 20 groups worked on the commons area during the yearlong process, including Little Dixie Construction, which contributed an estimated $32,000.

The Columbia-based construction company was originally called to provide an estimate for removing an old home that was on the property where the playground stands, but instead of offering an estimate, Wagner said the company offered to remove the house and build the playground.

“That’s a really cool thing, to have somebody say, ‘Why don’t we just do that for you?’” Wagner said.

Bob Grove, co-owner of Little Dixie Construction, said the company tries to “do some good in the community” and that the company worked with a lot of their subcontractors to donate all the materials and labor.

Wagner said he believes that the group effort will help Boone County Family Resources provide greater services to a wider range of people, including disabled children, their siblings and children of parents with disabilities.

The playground will also be available to families in the neighborhood, who can access it for free by using a magnetic key card.

Paul Eric Kindling said he is looking forward to seeing children use the playground named after his son, although the feeling is bittersweet.

“I’m honored that it’s named after Paul Julian’s brother, but I wish that all siblings who have had their brother or sister die would have that kind of honor, too,” he said.

Although he feels privileged for Paul Julian, he was sure to speak of his other son as well.

“I mean, I obviously feel a little bit of sadness that my son’s not going to able to use the playground,” he said.

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