By: Kendall Shanks

The Karns Lions Club broke ground on their first all-inclusive playground which gives children with disabilities the same opportunity of abled children. The playground will feature traditional playground equipment, as well as accommodations for wheelchairs and blind children.

Ramps and specialty outdoor music equipment will allow children with disabilities to play alongside abled children. Special Education teacher Mallory Woods said the playground will “take way the stigma” surrounding children with disabilities.

The all-inclusive playground provides an “integrated environment to play regardless of ability,” said Special Education teacher Tim Lee. Lee is encouraged knowing community leaders were “putting focus on [children’s] needs to be successful.”

County Commissioner Brad Anders estimated the cost of the project to be nearly one million dollars. Donations from Smithbilt Homes, Pilot Flying J and Knox County funded the project. East Tennessee Lions Club donated equipment to the playground.

Special Education Assistant Keith Thomas said that having an inclusive playground as a child would have helped him and those with disabilities feel like part of the same community. “Disability or not, you’re a human being,” Thomas said.