JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park and Playground for EveryBody

A new accessible beach park and playground opened this weekend, May 22, 2010.  It is an amazing playground with the concept coming from someone who is facing adversity and turning it into a positive for everyone.

Nobody enjoys the beach more than Josh Thompson. He was an avid surfer. He loved taking his family to the beach. He grew up on the beach and thought he’d be riding his board for years to come. But in late 2006, Josh was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Josh had to turn his attention from riding waves to fighting ALS, a battle few so young have to face.

JT’s Grommet Island Beach Park and Playground For EveryBODY is the first of its kind in America. The idea was born when Josh Thompson’s family wanted to go to the beach, but he stayed behind because of the difficulty of getting his wheelchair to the beach, across the sand and down to the surf. They wondered how many more people never got to the beach for the same reason. The park idea was born. Bruce Thompson, Josh’s dad, took the idea of a 100% handicap accessible oceanfront park to the City of Virginia Beach where it was embraced with enthusiasm. Land was allocated and plans submitted to the City of Virginia Beach.

On the rubberized play surface across from Anticipation is a climbable tableau featuring a surfboard, dolphins and waves. “The wave feature is intended to bring surf to people who can’t get down to the water,” says Stacy Gibson, project designer for WPL Site Design.The surfboard provides an accessible place for people to pose for pictures while pretending to ride the waves. “You can transfer from a wheelchair onto the surfboard, and when you’re on it, the dolphins seem to be swimming with you,” Gibson says.

Three paved paths lead down to sitting areas on the beach, so people in wheelchairs can get closer to the water and, if they’re able, help build a sand castle. “Super scoops” are provided, and beach wheelchairs are available.  There are shaded areas to sit under.  There is a sensory wall, execerise equipment for people who use a wheelchair and much more.

Learn more about Grommet Island

Read an article in Quest Magazine about Grommet Island.

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