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A gateway to a new camping opportunity

Mar 18, 2015
The Kiwanis Barrier Free Park gives children with special needs a place to play and socialize with other kids

In Santa Ana, California, the Kiwanis Barrier Free Park gives children with special needs a place to play and socialize with other kids.The Kiwanis Club of Santa Ana helps make it happen. Thanks to the club’s partnership with the city—and the dedication of longtime club member George Upton, whose passion drove the project—the 5.5-acre space is an environment in which kids of all abilities interact.

For more than 12 years, the club has funded and conducted two luncheons per year at the Kiwanis Barrier Free Park for local special-needs classes. Those events have been popular among parents and kids—many of whom come from poorer financial backgrounds and appreciate the opportunity.

Club members enjoy them too. Many of the Santa Ana Kiwanians volunteer during the luncheons and help facilitate the use of the special equipment. Now the club has an opportunity to expand its park-related services, says Alberto Manetta, the club’s immediate past president.

“One of the wishes the children and parents have expressed was for these very special kids to have a safe place to experience overnight camping,” Alberto says. “Our club is committed to providing that experience.”

During Alberto’s tenure as president, the Kiwanis Club of Santa Ana turned to the Kiwanis International Foundation.

An important level of comfort
The opportunity required upgrades to equipment and amenities. For example, there’s the large, gated fence that surrounds the park. The fun inside may be barrier-free, but the fence helps ensure the safety of smaller children, who are more likely to run from adults’ grasp. Of course, it also protects the equipment during the off hours.

“It’s an important level of comfort for the parents and security for the children,” Alberto says.

In fact, the club got the ball rolling in the park’s overall improvement, raising and investing more than US$5,500 in paint, sanding supplies, restroom rentals and more. The Santa Ana club was also a major participant in sanding and undercoating the fence—and painting it Kiwanis blue. The Kiwanians also discovered the need for significant repairs, including reinforcement and welding of weak and corroded areas.

Thanks to a grant from the Kiwanis International Foundation, the fence was repaired last August. And more than 4,700 children—including nearly 200 kids with special needs—can now play, interact and even camp overnight in a secure environment.

Our foundation’s grants come from the Kiwanis Children’s Fund. And the fund itself consists of gifts from people like you. When you give, you help Kiwanians complete projects that are close to their hearts. And you extend your impact to the lives of children like those in Santa Ana.

“These are children who are poor, and have physical or mental disabilities,” Alberto says. “We’re providing a safe oasis for these children to enjoy for a short period of time what other kids can enjoy all the time.”