Puzzle Pieces is excited to announce the future installation of a fully inclusive sensory outdoor museum/playground at its campus on New Hartford Road. This playground will be the first of its kind in the nation and a product line of Miracle Recreation Equipment Company.
The addition to Puzzle Pieces is made possible by a $40,000 Owensboro Health Community Health Investment Grant, which will support the first phase of the project. Owensboro Health announced their 2021 grant recipients on social media Thursday. Puzzle Pieces was one of 35 funded projects.
“Owensboro Health has been a vital partner in allowing Puzzle Pieces to make a difference in the lives of those with intellectual disabilities and their emotional and physical health,” said Puzzle Pieces Executive Director Amanda Owen. “Without the support of Owensboro Health in 2012, Puzzle Pieces wouldn’t exist. This new chapter of what they are helping us build will not only benefit our 167 clients, but will also put us on a national map that could impact the greater disability community.”
By December 2020, rod-iron fencing, rubber adaptive ground coverage and the first round of play equipment will be installed on the New Hartford Road side of Puzzle Pieces’ campus. By August 2021, with the support of the Christopher Reeves Foundation and the anticipated support of additional grant funding, an adaptive wheelchair ramp, additional rubber ground surfacing and custom-made adaptive swings will be installed.
Miracle Recreation intends for the outdoor sensory museum/playground at Puzzle Pieces to be a national model for sensory play equipment, allowing the Owensboro nonprofit to give back to the greater disability population.
The Miracle Museum is a sensory activity rich series of independent “stations” that join together to create engaging physical, auditory, visual, tactile and calming experiences designed to meet the wide spectrum of sensory needs of a diverse population of children especially those with intellectual disabilities such as, but not limited to autism. An added benefit of the Miracle Museum is its integration of STEM-based events that are equally as engaging to children who are typical. In simple terms, the Miracle Museum brings a science center and children’s museum activities to the playground.
“We are excited to partner with an organization like Puzzle Pieces in Owensboro, Kentucky to launch our new Miracle Museum product line,” said Miracle Recreation Vice President Global Sales Michael A. Sutton. “The work being done at Puzzle Pieces to bring play to not only their clients, but to the greater community is admirable and represents what is best in our society. The unique play features included in their plan for this playground will surely attract children and their caregivers from all over Owensboro.”
As a Miracle national research site, Miracle Recreation will work with Puzzle Pieces and their own child development expert, Dr. Tina Stanton-Chapman, Ph.D., to study play patterns and share information that will result in continued development of inclusive products worldwide. Dr. Stanton-Chapman is a world-renowned child-development expert. She holds a Ph.D. in Education and Human Development with a concentration in Special Education from Vanderbilt
This collaboration between Miracle and Puzzle Pieces will ultimately serve the greater good across the United States and around the world.
Puzzle Pieces, which serves 167 clients with a variety of intellectual and physical disabilities, plans to use this playground to implement programming to promote healthier lifestyles. Individuals with intellectual disabilities are exponentially more at risk for obesity and physical inactivity due to the side effects of medication, lack of appropriate/skilled programming and lack of interest or knowledge of physical health and weight management.
Lindsey Mullis with the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute said that Kentucky’s 34.6% disability rate makes it one of the highest in the country. Of the adult population with a disability, 69.7% are classified as overweight or obese, 15.6% have or previously had heart disease, 48.6% have or previously had high blood pressure, and 44.1% have or previously had high cholesterol. Kentucky also ranks 45th in the country in relation to physical inactivity with 53.6% of the disability population meeting neither the aerobic nor the muscular strengthening physical activity recommendations (CDC Disability and Health, 2017).
According to the Center for Applied Research & Engagement System out of the University of Missouri that utilizes data from the CDC, Daviess County has a higher rate of physical inactivity of 26.2% compared to the national level at 22.8%. Additionally, the rates of obesity for the local area is 31% compared to 28.8% nationally.
This playground is essential to Puzzle PIeces in order to promote the health and wellbeing of our clients. Appropriate, safe and inclusive equipment will disguise play as exercise for clients with disabilities, promoting a healthier lifestyle for both them and their families. Beyond managing their disabilities with appropriate healthcare and medications, Puzzle Pieces wants to promote a healthy lifestyle so that our clients can be active community members.