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Campaign launched to raise money for water play at Kids Together

Kids Together Playground supporters have launched a campaign to raise money to build new water features in the middle of the very popular Cary park.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
Kids Together Playground supporters have launched a campaign to raise money to build new water features in the middle of the very popular Cary park.

Built in 2000, the playground was the brainchild of two girls - then ages 6 and 7 - whose sisters have special needs. The idea formed in 1993 and, after several years of grassroots fundraising and town support, came together.

Fifteen years later, leaders now are working to raise $106,000 to build the misting structures. In a quiet fundraising stage, the nonprofit group that supports the park has raised about $31,000, said Marla Dorrel, the group's founder. It also recently started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise at least another $5,000. (If you've been to Kids Together, you probably recognize Dorrel's name. The park where the playground sits was named after Dorrel in 2008).

Back in the 1990s, the nonprofit helped raise about $300,000 of the total $900,000 to build the playground. Much of that money came in through 25 cent or $10 donations. It's a similar effort today - aided by modern technology.

"Small donations come in to make a lot of money," Dorrel said. "It's the same spirit."

The long-time goal of Kids Together is to offer an inclusive place for children of all abilities to play. There's wide decking on the play structures for children with mobility issues, sand tables for kids in wheelchairs and specially designed swings. But the goal isn't to have a special place for special kids, as Dorrel said, but a place where all kids can play side by side.

It also incorporates a garden among the play structures. The landscape changes with the seasons. Kids are encouraged to touch, feel, smell and explore the park's flowers, bushes, trees and grasses.

Water features were always part of the park's master plan, but they weren't included years ago because of budget reasons and other concerns, Dorrel said.

For a playground that focuses not just on active play, but also sensory experiences that include sand and nature play, Dorrel said it was time to add water features. The park does have water fountains and jug fillers.

"Water play is a really significant part of child development," she said. "Something is missing at Kids Together Playground and what's missing is water."

Don't expect a big sprayground like the one that recently opened in Fuquay-Varina. Instead, plans call for misting pieces, similar to those at Pullen Park. They are proposed to sit next to the purple play structure in the center of the park, across from KATAL, the dragon, which kids love to climb on. The pieces will sit on rubbery safety surfacing.

Dorrel said plans also call for incorporating an artistic touch to the piece. Dorrel, a former Cary town council member, is working in collaboration with the Town of Cary and Cary Visual Art on the project. There's no solid timeline on the project just yet. Dorrel hopes to get some town funding for the project in the 2016-17 town budget. She said the group also is open to in-kind donations and would love to talk to local businesses about the plans.

"If all the stars align and all the dollars align," she said, "by summer 2017, we could have that refreshing mist to play with."

To learn more about the project, go to the park's page on GoFundMe.com.

Kids Together Playground at Marla Dorrel Park is at 111 Thurston Dr., Cary.


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