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News 5 Jefferson Award winner created first ADA-accessible park in Monument

Posted at 7:54 PM, Mar 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-21 00:37:26-04

MONUMENT, Colo. — Stop by Trinity Community Park in Monument and you'll see plenty of children having fun. But unlike most playgrounds around town, this one is designed to be accessible to anyone with special needs.

"It's about everybody being able to play together," said Trinity Community Park Executive Director Tamara Schwarz. "It's about no matter what body type you're in that you can all be together."

Schwarz's mission in creating the park was to bring the community together so people like 21-year-old Alex Faber have a place where they can be themselves.

Monument ADA Playground
Children play on an ADA-accessible playground in Monument.

"He really didn't have growing up a park where he could come to with his other buds that had special needs and be safe," said Faber's mom Suzanne. "This for young kids with special needs is a godsend."

Schwarz came up with the idea for the park during the pandemic. Her church, Trinty Lutheran church in Monument, had plans to demolish the old church playground.

"My husband and I were getting those COVID relief checks from the government," Schwarz said. "We thought we need to pay that forward because there are so many other people that need this money not us."

Courtesy of Tamara Schwarz

So the idea was born to build a playground for the community to enjoy. The church donated the land off Knollwood Drive and the congregation quickly jumped in to help.

"Within about 3 weeks we had about $50,000," said Schwarz. "I thought I was going to build the Taj Mahal. I thought, 'That's a lot of money!'"

That $50,000 covered the cost of a new playground.

"When we started to research equipment, all of a sudden, all of the other equipment started to pop up and it was equipment for people with special needs," she said.

That sparked an interest in learning more. She called three of her friends with special needs children and found out they did not have any playgrounds nearby they could enjoy.

"My one friend said they would get a sitter for their special needs kid and take their other three kids to a park and have a picnic as a family," Schwarz said. "I came back to our team volunteers of 10 and said 'I gotta tell you these stories.' I told him the stories and it was absolutely unanimous. They said, 'We have to go for Phase 2'."

With the help of many businesses and other donors, Schwarz and her team raised $300,000 more to build an adaptive playground for all. When build day finally came, more than 75 volunteers, including the town's mayor, showed up to help.

"I helped build the teeter-totter along with 12 other guys, and this big apparatus over my shoulder here," said Mayor Mitch LaKind.

"Tamara is just the most amazing combination of passion and love and determination and leadership," said volunteer Sue Ross. "What she made happen in two years is absolutely phenomenal."

It's selfless work that's multiplying good for so many.

"The fact that Tamara has spearheaded this, and the church is really come behind her with this, to have a place where kids were special needs whether physical or cognitive, can come and play together, is absolutely huge, just huge," said Faber.

That's why Tamara Schwarz is the latest winner of the News 5 Jefferson Award for community service.

"It's very fun here at this park and we love you being here at this church," said Alex Faber.

Schwarz is always planning more phases for the park. Right now she's hoping to finish off the trail with gravel. They are looking for gravel donations or even a trucking company to haul the gravel to the park. If you can help or know someone who can, you can reach out to Schwarz and her team directly. Click here for more information.

Know a person multiplying good in our community? Nominate them for the KOAA News 5 Jefferson Award here.

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