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Raleigh mom works to build indoor play space for kids with special needs

Posted March 31, 2013

The Bannermans have been everywhere with their five-year-old son Michael. Playgrounds, bounce houses, museums and more.

"If there is a place for kids within 30 miles, we've been there," mom Kandice Bannerman tells me.

But the family has struggled to find a place that is just right for Michael, who was diagnosed at five months with infantile spasms. The rare seizure disorder has left him with physical and cognitive disabilities, Bannerman tells me.

The frustration reached a high one day about a year ago after the family searched for something to do. A bounce house destination they'd traveled to was closed for a private party. Another was too busy for Michael to have any fun. They finally ended up at Target, not exactly the best place for an active little boy to work out some energy.

And that's when Kandice Bannerman decided she'd been frustrated long enough. If there wasn't a space just right for her own son, she was going to build it. The idea for Someone Special Like Me came to life. Kandice Bannerman Raleigh mom works to build indoor play space for kids with special needs

"I developed it in my brain, wrote it out, prayed about it, called my mom," said Bannerman, a Meredith College graduate who quit her job when her son was diagnosed with the disorder. She shared her idea with Mike, her husband, who supported her from the beginning.

The Bannermans' vision is to create an indoor play space, which could open as early as this July in the Cary area, for children ages 0 to 17 with special needs. It would cater to kids with all kinds of disabilities - those in wheelchairs to those who get overwhelmed by crowds to those who can't walk or talk, along with their typically developing friends or siblings.

"Our goal is to cover the umbrella, period," she tells me.

The center would include a section with regular games - a "typical area," she called it - but with more supervision than at other indoor play areas. The light would be low and the sound turned down for kids who might be sensitive to them. She's looking at a soft area and foam floors for children who are prone to seizures, along with other amenities.

Bannerman envisions the center offering open play and eventually birthday parties, summer camps, day programs and Mommy and Me classes.

Bannerman said it was tricky to find activities to do with her young son, who is now in preschool. And she isolated herself from friends after the diagnosis, focusing 100 percent on her son. She would like Someone Special Like Me to be a place where parents of kids with special needs can find support, encouragement and help.

"I was hurt for Michael," she tells me. You get the mindset that they're not going to get it. They're not going to understand."

Bannerman first came up with the idea in February 2012 and she quickly got started. With the help of her husband, a runner, she organized a 5K last May to raise money for the project. And they've had other events and fundraising activities too.

Now the couple is working to organize the second Someone Special Like Me 5K. It's set for May 25 at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. The morning includes a kid's dash, 5K, vendors, entertainment, prizes, games and more, including games designed for kids with special needs. Click here for more about the race and to register.

In the meantime, she is working to spread the word about Someone Special Like Me. She's doing research and working with a design student at N.C. State, along with therapists, teachers and parents of kids with special needs.

Bannerman says the support she's already received has been huge.

"I believe God is so in control," she said. "I am so overwhelmed by the support of the community. I had no idea there were so many wonderful people here."

For more information about Someone Special Like Me, check them out on their website, Facebook and Twitter.

I look forward to following her progress!

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.



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