On Tuesday, Oct. 19, The Children’s Center for Communication and Development officially cut the ribbon on its brand-new playground on The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach, made possible by a gift from the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation through the USM Foundation.
A beautiful fall day set the scene for the Center’s guests as they celebrated the space and listened to representatives from The Children’s Center, USM, and the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation speak to the impact that it will have on countless families for years to come.
At The Children’s Center, a playground is more than a playground. For this non-profit that provides cost-free services for babies and young children with disabilities on both USM’s campuses, a playground is a therapy setting. And in many cases, it can be one of the most naturally motivating settings for therapy as it provides innumerable opportunities to work on language, motor, and social skills through play.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation for their partnership in the construction of this playground and outdoor therapy space,” said Sarah Myers, Director at The Children’s Center. “The grant award totaled $323,540 and the goals of the grant project were to target therapeutic milestones like peer-to-peer social interaction and active movement, including age-appropriate play skills. We worked closely with the Foundation and playground designer, Moonshot Recreation with Landscape Structures, to design a space that would encourage children to work on these skills through the act of outdoor play.”
And those in attendance got to see these skills being targeted in person as children from The Children’s Center walked along the balance beam, raced each other on the bike track, took turns pushing buttons and pulling levers on the water feature, and interacted with one another on the two-person swing.
“The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is proud of its partnership with The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation and The Children’s Center to provide a playground to encourage children and their families to spend more time outside engaging in fun play activities,” said Sheila Grogan, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation President. “The Foundation has a vision for a healthy Mississippi, and studies show there are a variety of health benefits through interactive outdoor play, including physical and cognitive development and social and emotional well-being.”
“Thanks to the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, we now have a custom-designed space that will be used as an essential therapy resource for the 50 families we are currently serving at this location, as well as many more in future years,” said Myers. “What a beautiful gift the Foundation has given us – the gift of therapy through play.”
The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at The University of Southern Mississippi is a non-profit that provides cost-free comprehensive early intervention therapy for children age 0-5 with complex disabilities while educating, training and supporting families, university students and professionals. For more information, visit www.usm.edu/childrenscenter.