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Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation grant helps Madison Parks Foundation make playgrounds accessible for all

First in a series of articles on charitable organizations supported by grants awarded by the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation through American Family Insurance Championship proceeds.

Madison loves its parks. The capital city of Wisconsin has 276 parks and 176 playgrounds, spanning 6,000 acres, all free and open to the public. It’s not surprising Madison is nationally recognized for its expansive and picturesque park system.

The Madison Parks Foundation loves them, too. The non-profit organization is dedicated to preserving and expanding parks and open spaces for this generation and those to come. The Madison Parks Foundation was founded in 2003 by private citizens who understood the value of public parklands.

Madison Parks Foundation fills financial gap

There is a wide financial gap left between public money allocated for the Parks Division (less than $1 per household per park in taxes) and the resources needed to maintain or improve these popular community areas. The Madison Parks Foundation goal has been to fill this gap through donations, grants, trusts and other gifts. A recent grant was provided by the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation, through money raised from the PGA TOUR Champions American Family Insurance Championship.

Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation grant helping make playgrounds accessible

The foundation grant is being put toward supporting a specific purpose identified by the Parks Division: Adding an additional four fully accessible playgrounds in community-level parks across the Madison community. And they will rely on fundraising efforts of the Madison Parks Foundation to help make it a reality.

“Madison consistently ranks #1 for number of playgrounds per 10,000 residents, but currently only two of 176 are fully accessible,” said Stephanie Franklin, Madison Parks Foundation executive director. “For many children with both cognitive and physical disabilities, our facilities don’t provide equitable access to the benefits of play and exploration, as well as interaction with children of all abilities.”

As Franklin explains, the playgrounds meet ADA (American with Disabilities Act) requirements as children are able to get to the playground through paved walkways and transfer platforms on equipment. However once there, many children may not be able to enjoy it as well as able-bodied peers due to additional mobility obstacles on and around the structures. A fully accessible park also addresses sensory issues, such as those experienced by children with autism, or by providing braille on equipment for children with visual impairments.

The first fully accessible playground in Madison completed in 2017 and the second fully accessible playground opening later this spring were truly a community effort, with input from disability advocates, caregivers and neighborhood representatives all taken into consideration. Though fully accessible parks have special features for children with disabilities, able-bodied children are encouraged and welcome to use these parks as well.

Cost and funding major factors

A major challenge is the cost of inclusive playgrounds, which is three to four times that of a traditional playground. There are several reasons for this, such as a much larger footprint and the increased cost of specific materials.

Regardless of financial hurdles, the Madison Parks Foundation is committed to raising the funds needed to make five parks accessible to all children and is thankful for the grant from the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation.

“Our 276 Madison parks provide children and their families a place to gather, a place to connect with nature and a place to play. Unfortunately, those with physical and cognitive disabilities are currently underserved when it comes to playgrounds,” said Franklin.

“That’s why the gift from the American Family Insurance Steve Stricker Foundation was so important to the Madison Parks Foundation and our efforts to fundraise for these fully-accessible playgrounds throughout the city, and why we are very grateful for the support.”

More about Madison Parks Foundation

Learn more about all the good work the Madison Parks Foundation is doing for the community here and on the organization’s website.

In just its first three years, the American Family Insurance Championship has provided proceeds of more than $4.7 million to 185 charitable organizations through the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation.

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