Building Inclusive Playgrounds in Montana: Examples from Missoula and Helena

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Building Inclusive Playgrounds in Montana:  Examples from Missoula and Helena
Outdoor play is critical for healthy child development, and children learn from play in a variety of ways:  physical, cognitive, emotional, and sensory.  Children with disabilities are empowered when the built environment meets their needs for play. Indeed, all children benefit when play spaces are designed for children of all abilities to play together.  
Topics will include:  public-private partnerships, playground design process (including focus groups and learning from children); fundraising; programming; mobilizing the community; public relations; social networking; best practices; equipment evaluation and more.  Scaled options from small changes to large projects will be discussed.
Cathy Costakis, Montana State University 
Cathy Costakis works for Montana State University-Bozeman and is a Senior Consultant to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services' Nutrition and Physical Activity program (NAPA).  NAPA is a statewide obesity prevention program, funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  For the past nine years Cathy has worked on statewide initiatives focused on the connection between physical activity and community design.  In partnership with statewide advisors and mentor counties, Cathy has developed the Montana Building Active Communities Initiative and works statewide to provide technical assistance and training to cities working to build better places for active living.  Cathy holds a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Illinois and a master's degree in health promotion from MSU-Bozeman. 



Meg Traci, Montana Disability and Health Program 

Meg Traci, a developmental psychologist, has expertise in early childhood and life-span human development. For over twenty years, she has committed her work to improving the health of persons with disabilities across the life course using a public health and social planning approach. Since 2002, Dr. Traci has directed the Montana Disability and Health Program, a cooperative agreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. MTDH is conducted in partnership with The University of Montana Rural Institute: A Center for Excellence in Disability Education, Research, and Services-where Dr. Traci is a Research Associate Professor. 




Jenny Montgomery, Missoula All Abilities Playground 

Jenny Montgomery is a co-owner of Montgomery Distillery with her husband, Ryan.  She also chairs the All-Abilities Playground Project, which is collaborating with Missoula Parks and Recreation to bring Montana's first, large-scale, universally accessible playground to Missoula.  She has a five-year old son and loves being part of the Montana disability community.



Stacy Sommer, Helena Playable Playground

Stacy Sommer is a mother of two children ages 4 and 7. Living around Washington DC, she and her husband Eric discovered there were better playgrounds out there. After her oldest son John was diagnosed with a sensory disorder, her family began to seek out these playgrounds. After moving to Helena she learned they didn't exist in Montana. Stacy set out to change Montana one playground at a time. Her first project was a small remodel of the special needs preschool John was enrolled in. She has completed a new playground at Centennial Park raising over $100,000 for playground equipment, a remodel of an existing playground in East Helena, and is working with KaBOOM and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana to install a playground in East Helena on August 23. She dreams of a inclusive destination playground with over 8,000 square feet of play surfacing in Lewis & Clark Fairgrounds. She has developed three annual fundraisers that other organizations like PTO's can use to raise money for their playground projects.


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