HELENA — In August of 2018, Van's Thriftway in Helena started to raise funds to build an adaptive swing at Memorial Park in Helena for those in a wheelchair, and earlier this month, the dream became a reality.
Helena resident Karri Jones said prior to this swing being added to the park, there was one there, but it wasn't quite up to snuff.
"They had one we when we were kids, but it didn't really work very good," said Jones after getting a chance to try the swing on Tuesday morning. "Having one that actually works, it's gonna be exciting to see all the kids in the community being able to use it and being able to do this stuff that we never got to do."
Jones said one of the reasons for inclusive equipment is important in local communities is for that exact reason, to include everyone.
"Why is it important to have adaptive equipment like this?" asked MTN.
"So we don't miss out? Because without this equipment, we would miss out on everything," said Jones.
Theresa Gardner is another Helena resident who is also a wheelchair user said this was one of the only times she's ever been able to experience swinging on a playground, and while it may seem like a simple thing to most, the experience was an emotional one for her.
"When I was growing up, I never got to be in the swing myself, I had to have somebody lift me on something if I wanted to go, and it was a lot of work," said Gardner. "I felt like I was doing something that I wanted to do for years and finally they decided to do something and it really means a lot to me. I'm 46 years old, and I'm finally getting to swing on a swing in a playground. 46 years. It's just overwhelming."
The project, which has been in the works for two years, was started by Van's Thriftway with a fundraiser and community donations. Sarah Dunlap, an employee of Van's, said the reasoning behind starting the project was actually something pretty simple.
"We just felt that our community needed something like this. We have so many members that want to have a lot of fun too and we didn't see one," said Dunlap. "I saw a picture with a kid's face on it after swinging in a wheelchair swing and that's what everybody should be able to experience."
As members of the Helena community gathered to celebrate the equipment's arrival at the park, Dunlap said the fact that everyone affiliated with the project was able to create an opportunity for everyone in the community to enjoy was incredible.
"I can't even express how happy it warms my heart to watch [Karri's and Theresa's] faces when they were swinging," said Dunlap.
Though Dunlap said they're not quite sure what they'll do next, everyone involved was ecstatic about the communities willingness to help out.
"I just want to thank the whole community and our Van's customers for helping make this possible," said Dunlap.
Jones echoed the sentiment saying, "I just wanna say thank you to the community. Because without you, this wouldn't be possible. Kids wouldn't be able to enjoy what other people do."