This was written by Savannah Jones 

MORGANTOWN W.Va. – Governor Jim Justice awarded $1.3 million to fund a SteppingStones inclusive playground for disabled children and adults at Mylan Park Monday, closing the fundraising gap on the project.

SteppingStones is a nonprofit organization that offers several recreational activities for children and adults with disabilities, such as Miracle League Baseball, Jiu Jitsu classes, and its newest addition: an all-inclusive playground.

“We provide year-round recreation to children and adults with disabilities, so all the fun stuff that every kiddo or young adult is doing in Morgantown, we make it possible for somebody that has a physical or cognitive disability to be able to do,” Executive Director Monica Marietta said on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town.”

The playground has been in the works for five years, according to Marietta, with construction being halted in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic and again by inflation. The original ground-breaking date was set for spring 2023, but a rise in projected costs pushed it back indefinitely.

Now, with the governor’s donation as well as $300,000 from the Monongalia County Commission and a $50,000 grant from the Milan Puskar Foundation, the project is being set in motion.

“We got to about a half a million dollars, and then we have another almost half a million dollars in pledges that are coming in this year, and then the governor showed up yesterday with a check for $1.3 million to just push us over the top,” she said.

The playground will feature several inclusive equipment pieces, such as smooth surfaces for increased mobility, a wheelchair swing, and a sunken merry-go-round, eliminating barriers for those who cannot step onto a lifted merry-go-round.

“Whether you’re using a wheelchair, you’re using a walker, cane or you’re completely ambulatory, you can access each piece of the equipment to climb on the apparatuses and be with everyone, regardless of what your ability is,” she said.

Marietta said the organization is grateful to their donors, who are making it possible for all ages to play together with no barriers.

“We want everybody to be able to get together, because there’s no right or wrong way to play,” she said.

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