TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) -- One Greater Lafayette girl scout is bringing more accessibility to several local parks. Kids with disabilities will now be able to enjoy handicap-accessible swings.
Up until this year, Tippecanoe County only had one park with a handicap-accessible swing. This also means up until this point, many kids in this community went without enjoying the parks as other kids could but now that's all changing.
Thirteen-year-old Sam Ohlhaut, who was born with a disorder that affects his mobility and speech is enjoying the first swing of the season here in Tippecanoe County. In fact, this is the first time he's ever been able to swing at a public park. That's thanks to an initiative from girl scout Lauren Kish, 17, of Indiana Troop 2748.
"I put in accessible-swings for kids with disabilities all in the playgrounds in West Lafayette and I saw a need in the community, there was only about one swing," said Kish.
Now there are 20, not only located in West Lafayette but also Lafayette and West Point parks. In order for Kish to receive her Golden Award, she had to create a sustainable community project. Growing up as a family friend to the Ohlhaut siblings, she always noticed that playtime at the park was much different for Sam.
"Every time we would go to the parks, he wouldn't be able to swing and I was always really sad because I always loved swinging and I wanted to make sure that whoever I went with if they have a disability if they don't, could swing," said Kish.
Each swing costs around $500. Kish went into this project with the goal of raising at least $3,000 but thanks to a community of supporters she was able to surpass that.
"We got to $24,000 and that's incredible, I never dreamed I could get to that much," said Kish.
Sam's mom Deanna is happy about what this project means for Sam and other kids like him.
"When spring does come, he's not going to be sitting in his wheelchair watching his brother play at the playground," said Ohlhaut. "He's usually a squealer so I expect that he's probably going to have some really squealy moments."
West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis is impressed with how Kish was able to identify a need and work towards a solution. He's encouraging other community members, especially youth, to do the same.
"What Lauren did by bringing it to our attention, by doing this amazing job and raising so much money, it made it so that people like Sammy can be included and get the same level of enjoyment from our park system as everybody else does," said Dennis.
These swings are located at Lommel Park, Pech-Trauchman Park, Tapawingo Park, Happy Hallow Park, U-Farms Park, and Lincoln Park.
Community donors include McAllister Foundation, West Point Lions Club, Breakfast Optimus, Noon Optimus, Wabash National, Kiwanis International, DeFouw Chevrolet of Lafayette, Knights of Pythias, Harmony Counseling, Intac Managment Group, Duke Energy, West Lafayette ADA-Coordinator and Facilities Director Tim Clark, and West Lafayette Parks Superintendent Kathy Lozano.