Shortly after Meredith and Adam Bugenske’s son was born, he was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease affecting voluntary muscle movement.
Throughout his short life, Leo Bugenske has battled to do many things other children take for granted. Walking, running, sitting up and eating are challenges for the boy. As you can imagine, a trip to Midlands playgrounds left little opportunity for fun and play.
So several years ago, Meredith wrote an email to Saluda Shoals Park and asked whether or not some playground enhancements could make it a more inclusive experience for Leo and other children.
The idea for a universally inclusive playground was born, and individuals and corporations began stepping up to make it a reality. Colonial Life donated $50,000 to the park to support the playground.
On a recent Saturday morning, Leo’s Landing was officially opened at Saluda Shoals Park.
The playground includes a wide-ranging display of playground equipment that is easily accessible by children with mobility issues, children who need close adult supervision, children using wheelchairs and intertwined with traditional playground amenities so they can enjoy the same activities together.
Bill Harmon, an assistant vice president in underwriting at Colonial Life and chair of the Irmo-Chapin Recreation Commission, was among the officials who welcomed guests to the playground for the first time.
“Upon hearing of the need for the all-inclusive playground a few years ago and now making the Bugenskes’ dream for our community become a reality has been both an emotional and gratifying experience,” Bill said. “Knowing that our playground allows children of all abilities to learn, socialize and grow together through play where they can enjoy the same activities side-by-side is heartwarming.
“At Leo’s Landing, families can form lasting relationships in a single park that evokes inclusion and possibilities vs. separation and limitations. I am so thankful and incredibly proud of Colonial Life’s partnership in making this possible for our community.”
Nevin Boal, a manager in strategic sourcing and Saluda Shoals Foundation board member, was on-hand to celebrate the park’s opening.
“This playground is the culmination of several years of planning and was very well-received by the community, especially the children,” Nevin said. “We were able to see firsthand both children and adults of all abilities enjoy a sensory-rich play area ranging from gliders to musical instruments.”