Park News


Play for All Playground & Garden Foundation Receives $150,000

CONTACT: Brett Peto
Wheaton Park District
December 12, 2016

DuPage County, Ill.—The mission to create play for all in DuPage County and beyond received a boost this fall with a $100,000 donation and a $50,000 donation to the Play For All Playground & Garden Foundation, started in 2013 to develop the Sensory Garden Playground (2751 Navistar Dr., Lisle, Ill.), an accessible facility allowing children of all abilities to play side-by-side.
The two local donors wish to remain anonymous at this time, but they’ve targeted their generosity towards the building of an accessible treehouse, said Development Director T.J. Hicks.
“We’re extremely grateful for this incredibly generous donation,” he said. “It’s a gift to the children and families of DuPage County, and it’s a gift to every child, regardless of ability, who wants to play with their friends.”
Foundation officials toured local treehouses, including those at Hawks Hollow Nature Playground (38W199 Kaneville Rd., Geneva, Ill.) and Blackberry Farm (100 S. Barnes Rd., Aurora, Ill.), in October. The Sensory Garden Playground’s treehouse is now in the design stage.
“At this point, there are so many exciting options to look at, but we know it will have an accessible ramp and many interactive components,” Hicks said. “We’re receiving input from the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association and the rest of our partners, and look forward to receiving community input as well.”
The donation brings the fundraising goal of $450,000 for construction of this phase significantly closer.
The foundation hopes to have the treehouse designed by early next year, and if the remaining funds can be raised, start construction in 2017. Swings for 5-to-12-year-old children will also be installed at ground level in the spring, adding “yet another exciting component,” Hicks said.
These expansions will complement the existing 2-to-5-year-old playground, fragrance and sound gardens, central gathering area, walking paths, and Art Along the Way, a series of sensory-integrated sculptures also scheduled to receive additions next year.
“We’re going to install the Sensory Arch,” said foundation board member Margie Wilhelmi, “along with the Carousel and Harness Racer sculptures by summer 2017. Each of them adds something exciting and new to the facility.”
Art Along the Way is the brainchild of Elburn-based artist Joe Gagnepain, whose eclectic sculptures, paintings, and other creations appear across Chicagoland.
The Sensory Arch, an eight-foot-tall steel horseshoe “play[ing] off the scale of something small seen extremely large,” Gagnepain said, will span the path into the playground.
Inside, the Carousel will spin on a central axle, demonstrating centrifugal force, and the Harness Racer, shaped like a farmer operating a horse-drawn plow, is inclusive towards children who use wheelchairs, encouraging them to approach the plow at the same level as the farmer.
“It’s part of our effort to cover as many dimensions of sensory stimulus as we can,” Wilhelmi said, “from size to motion to height level.”
Land for the playground is leased from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County and equipment is funded entirely by private donation. Though the treehouse is now several steps closer to planting its roots, support is still needed.
“Once the treehouse and swings are complete, we’re still planning to build a playground for 5-to-12-year-old children, a water play area, a boulder climb area, and a multipurpose sports field,” Hicks said. “We’re committed to giving our community the most accessible and amazing playground and garden experience possible.”


After receiving a $100,000 donation and a $50,000 donation from two generous local donors this fall, the Play For All Playground & Garden Foundation is preparing designs for an accessible treehouse at the Sensory Garden Playground (2751 Navistar Dr., Lisle, Ill.). With the help of additional donations, officials hope to break ground in the spring and complete construction of the treehouse in 2017.
The foundation is a partnership between the Wheaton Park District, Western DuPage Special Recreation Association, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Kiwanis Club of Wheaton, Shane’s Inspiration, and Landscape Structures, Inc.
Graphic © Wheaton Park District 2016.


Play For All is proud to partner with UCP Sequin of Greater Chicago.

The UCP Seguin CLIMB Program is designed to meet the needs of young adults with disabilities graduating from high school, to support them in meeting the challenges of adult life.

Having closed its sheltered workshop in 1989, UCP Seguin has long championed community-based services designed to provide productive, meaningful activity for persons with developmental disabilities. Through the UCP Seguin CLIMB Program, UCP Seguin is offering its innovative services to DuPage County and surrounding communities.

Within UCP Seguin CLIMB, program participants engage in Life Skills UCP Seguin CLIMB was designed as, and continues to be, a uniquely focused program with an emphasis on more effectively bridging the gap between post secondary education and the adult service world as well as providing young adults real world life experiences and daily opportunities to develop and nurture ties to their community. All too often, the young men and women exiting from high schools and transition programs after graduation or certificate at age 22, are faced with difficult and too few choices. Unfortunately, many times one of those choices must be to enter an adult program that is so dissimilar from what they are used to, that it takes many months and sometimes years for them to re-acclimate and begin understanding the new expectations and systems. The aim of CLIMB is to offer that niche group of young people an opportunity to take part in something that feels more familiar, to more easily bridge the gap from 22 and 1 day to 23 and beyond and most importantly act as advocates and support them as they begin or continue to spread their collective roots into the community. As the program grew from idea to reality, we looked closely at local high school transition programs with the dual intent to not only research best practice in those arenas but to also stake out those districts, schools and programs who would then be feeding the program as it grew. Through the visits, we were able to develop solid connections with the school staff responsible for coordinating transition and firm up what the activities and scheduling would look like for CLIMB members. Incorporating the rules for adult day programs, designated by the Department of Human Services, with the activities these young people were used to in their State Board of Education settings, we were able to slowly and methodically build a program that very closely mirrored what exiting students and their families wanted. Very soon, CLIMB became the natural choice for many families as school staff and parents alike saw the ability to place the young adult in a setting they could thrive within.

Volunteerism, employment, social skill acquisition, community safety and daily living skills are the hallmarks of the programming but actual community integration - being out- is the true core of what we do here. The program space offers computer access for emailing, resume building research etc, plenty of space for educational activities such as reading, art, money skills and the like as well as ample space for in house fitness programs. However, as you may guess, not too many 22 year olds want to spend their days in one program space - no matter how many cool, fun things they get to do within it. The defining aspect of the program is that participants are out and active everyday. When they participate in cooking class, they decide on the meal in house but then shop at the local market and cook at one of the local agency CILAs. When they want to work out, they utilize the YMCA. The group frequently takes safety walks in the community, visits museums, volunteers at the homeless shelter and food pantry. They take trips to downtown Chicago, go horseback riding, sailing, and when the weather is nice hit the water parks and shoreline for picnics.

CLIMB offers a wonderful combination of recreation and learning and continues to receive the highest marks in satisfaction from parents and other stakeholders.

To learn more, visit


Art Along the Way to be Installed at Sensory Garden Playground in 2016


CONTACT: Margie Wilhelmi, Wheaton Park District
630.510.4984 |
DATE: December 14, 2015

DuPage County, IL—The Sensory Garden Playground already offers children of all abilities a safe, accessible space to play together. And in 2016, it will offer art on their way to play!

Art Along the Way will first showcase a Musical Mare and Sensory Arch, along with two more sculptures yet to be revealed. The Musical Mare and Sensory Arch will be installed by summer 2016.

The Sensory Garden Playground is specially designed for children with sensory processing disorders, and Art Along the Way is no different.

The Musical Mare is “a monumental steel statue of a horse’s head that will be instantly recognizable and engaging from a distance,” according to Geneva-based artist Joe Gagnepain, designer and builder of the sculptures. “When one gets closer they start to see all the different parts that make the striking statue.”

Mallets will hang on cords from the Musical Mare, so children can test the sounds and resonances produced by the sculpture’s various materials.

Another impact of the Musical Mare will be the interaction between the large silhouette of the horse’s head and the shapes of the smaller individual objects it consists of.

“When one gets closer they start to see all the different parts that make the striking statue,” Gagnepain said. “This will further engage children’s imaginations as they see all the objects and see how they relate as shapes.”

The Sensory Arch will also play with ideas of size; as an eight-foot-tall steel horseshoe spanning the pathway into the playground, it will “further reinforce the equestrian theme and play off of the scale of something small seen extremely large.”

Peppered into the horseshoe’s holes will be multicolored semi-transparent acrylic panels complete with symbols of the “sight, sound, touch, and imaginative concepts” found inside the playground.

Gagnepain’s preferred materials for his artwork are another man’s treasure: trash. He has worked with “bicycle parts, plastic toys, antique metal pieces, car parts, and anything that can be scavenged to reduce environmental impact.”

With these supplies, Gagnepain “mimics living forms with inorganic matter, creating animals, insects, plants, and whimsical abstractions from what some may consider garbage.”

To learn more about Joe Gagnepain and his unique style of art, please visit

The Sensory Garden Playground is dedicated to providing outdoor play spaces and gardens designed to meet the needs of all visitors, especially those on the autism spectrum. The playground is a joint project founded by the Wheaton Park District, Western DuPage Special Recreation Association, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Kiwanis Club of Wheaton, Shane’s Inspiration, and Landscape Structures, Inc.

Phase I of the playground is complete, including a Fragrance Garden, Sound Garden, Pony Stables Playground, and Central Gathering Area.

Three more phases are under development. Improvements that are a part of these phases include: a playground for 5-to-12-year-olds, a boulder climbing area, a water play area, an accessible multipurpose sports field, and an accessible treehouse.

The playground is being funded solely through private donations, grants, and sponsors, which allow it to be free for all. Fundraising for the remaining three phases is currently underway.

For more information about the Sensory Garden Playground and to support future phases, click here.

Musical Mare jpg

Artist Joe Gagnepain’s composite concept of the Musical Mare, to be installed in 2016.

Sensory Arch jpg

The Sensory Arch, an eight-foot-tall steel horseshoe, will span the walkway into the playground starting in 2016.


Sensory Garden Playground Receives Grant From the Rotary Foundation


Contact: Margie Wilhelmi, Wheaton Park District
Phone: 630.510.4984
Date: May 1, 2015

Comcast Partners with Play For All Playground & Garden Foundation for Annual Comcast Cares Day

Wheaton, IL— On Saturday, April 25, 2015 the Play For All Playground & Garden Foundation participated in Comcast Cares Day, the nation’s largest single-day corporate volunteer effort. It was the 14th annual Comcast Cares Day and the Company achieved two important milestones ― 4 million volunteer hours and 750,000 volunteers since Comcast Cares Day started in 2001.

During the day, over 60 volunteers worked to “make change happen” as they assisted with the cleanup of Sensory Garden Playground, located in Danada South Park, the first phase of which will open to the public later this month. The playground is an inclusive space for all abilities and ages, especially children who are living with Autism or other sensory integrated disorders.

“On behalf of the Play For All Playground & Garden Foundation, we would cordially thank Comcast and its employees for their hard work and dedication on Comcast Cares Day,” said Rob Sperl, Vice President of the Play For All Playground & Garden Foundation. “Thank you to the volunteers who gave their time so generously, we were able to remove more than an acre of invasive plant species, rake over five tons of granite for new trails that lead to outside exercise stations, prepare planter beds for seasonal gardening, and removed over a thousand feet of deteriorated fencing. These projects will allow for improved accessibility to play for people around and visiting our community.”

“Comcast was honored to partner with the Play For All Playground & Garden Foundation and to have such a positive impact on the community,” said John Crowley, Comcast’s Greater Chicago Region senior vice president. “I’m grateful to the over 60 volunteers who donated their time to help make a difference in the lives of others.”

To learn more about the Sensory Garden Playground, please call 630-510-4986.


Volunteer Work Day to Prepare Sensory Garden Playground for First Phase


Contact: Margie Wilhelmi, Wheaton Park District
Phone: 630-510-4984,
Date: June 7, 2013

Wheaton, IL – The Sensory Playground Committee organized its first volunteer workday on Wednesday, June 5 at the playground location in Danada Park South.

In attendance at the work day were 25 staff from BMO Harris, Kiwanis Club of Wheaton and several Wheaton Park District park staff members. For BMO Harris the Sensory Garden Playground volunteer workday was one of more than 470 workday events that their staff participated in.

“Just in one day, we had more than 5,600 employees helping out on 470 different community projects. We chose the Sensory Garden Playground because we wanted to help get the project started and see the importance for this playground,” stated Natalia LoDestro, Assistant Vice President at BMO Harris.

During the workday, volunteers cleared away 3 truckloads of debris and removed brush; opening the entrance to the area designated for the building of the first phase of the project.

Sensory Garden Playground, Play for All, will be the first playground of its kind in the western suburbs. It will create a barrier-free, universally designed outdoor play-space for the children of DuPage County and beyond. It offers a safe, fun environment for families who have children with Autism, Sensory Integration Disorder or other disabilities.

For more information about the Sensory Garden Playground, Play for All or to volunteer at a future work day, please contact us.


Play for All Article featured in Illinois Parks & Recreation Magazine

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