By Susanne Kappler, Fort Jackson LeaderApril 7, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The Fort Jackson community came together Tuesday to mark the Month of the Military Child with the grand opening of the SKIESUnlimited building and the adjacent boundless playground.
"This building is an example and proof of the Army Family Covenant and the Army commitment to families each and every day. We know that our families deserve the same kind of support and assistance that our Soldiers are receiving," said Carla Atkinson, director of Army Community Services.
SKIESUnlimited, which is operated by Child, Youth and School Services, offers classes ranging from fitness to arts to citizenship and academic support. Jeanette Dempsey, administrator for SKIESUnlimited, which stands for Schools of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills, said having a dedicated building will help broaden the spectrum of classes offered and make for a more inviting setting.
"It opens up a lot more opportunities for instructional programming," Dempsey said. "Before, we had to go to different locations and now we have a centralized space. We had to put mats up and down in the Joe E. Mann Center and work around other events that they had scheduled."
Atkinson said she believes SKIESUnlimited classes will enhance the relationships children have with each other and their parents.
"We hope that our children use this facility," she said. "It will make them better citizens. It will make them better students."
The boundless playground, which was funded and planned for by the ACS Exceptional Family Member Program, is located directly behind the SKIESUnlimited building.
"(The playground is) designed for children with and without disabilities," said Cheryl Jackson, EFMP manager.
The playground features structures low to the ground, which are accessible by ramps, as well as swings that provide back support and allow for children to be strapped in. Cement walkways allow wheelchair users easy access to the playground, and rubberized flooring provides a cushioned surface in the play areas. The playground is also covered with a tent to provide shade throughout the summer.
It is the second boundless playground on Fort Jackson. The first one is located adjacent to the Balfour Beatty Community Center.
"All of Fort Jackson's children need a safe and inclusive place to play. They deserve a safe and inclusive place to play," said Col. James Love, garrison commander. "Adding this second (boundless) playground helps ensure that every child has that opportunity."
The playground also makes it less problematic for parents with disabilities to accompany their children, Jackson said.
"Part of our idea is that wounded warriors have young children," Jackson said. "They may not have young children with (disabilities), but if they have a young child and they want to take their children to our park, it's easier for them to go to the boundless playground. If they're in a wheelchair or walking with a cane or crutches, they can access that playground with their young children."
Dori Tempio, a family member who has used a wheelchair since childhood, said she was excited to see the playground open.
"When I was a child they didn't have playgrounds like this," she said. "So when I wanted to go on a playground it was a difficult thing to do. To see children now able to do that is such a wonderful thing. It makes it truly inclusive. As a child, wanting to be with your peers is really important. Getting that opportunity to do so is even better."
Claudia Lopez, the mother of two children, said she likes the idea of children being able to play together, regardless of disabilities.
"If you put (the children) together, it doesn't matter who they are. They're just children (who like) to play, have fun and enjoy each other," Lopez said, adding that she appreciates all the programs Fort Jackson offers to family members.
"They're doing a lot of great things. I'm trying to involve my kids in everything I can," she said. "I think it's very important, because (it) keeps the families together, even though the husbands sometimes can't be with us."
The SKIESUnlimited building and playground are located on Chesnut Road, in close proximity to the housing area, C.C. Pinckney Elementary School and the Youth Services Center. In addition, SKIESUnlimited also occupies a building designated for Bright SKIES Academy and academic classes across the street from the Hood Street Child Development Center.
Editor's note: The opening of the new SKIESUnlimited building and boundless playground falls within 3.4 of the Campaign Plan by providing Fort Jackson community service.