Midlands boy inspires inclusive playground at Saluda Shoals Park

Midlands boy inspires inclusive playground at Saluda Shoals Park

IRMO, SC (WIS) - Thanks to the efforts of a Chapin family, planning is underway for a playground for people of all physical abilities at Saluda Shoals Park.

Since little Leo Bugenske feels so welcome at the park, he loves going there.

"With Leo, it's a matter of 'Hey, where do you want to go?' and the first place that comes to his mind is the place where he feels welcome, where there aren't any boundaries for him" said his father, Adam. "No is not an option."

"When he saw kids out on the playground, he wanted to be there so badly," said Leo's mother, Meredith. He loves to run with her on the trail at Saluda Shoals Park.

Leo,4, has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He loves going for runs with mom, animals, and playing with the family puppy.

"Meredith Bugenske really brought this to our attention, that Saluda Shoals did not have playground equipment that was inclusive. And it got our board to thinking and our park staff and we went, 'How did we miss this boat? We need to do this.' So the idea has grown and we're very excited to build something for our community," said Dolly Patton, Director of the Saluda Shoals Foundation.

"Inclusive puts equipment on the playground, in the play space, that you can play in things together," she said. "For instance, we've already purchased a glider that we put in our sister park in Chapin, Crooked Creek Park."

The Bugenskes say the new playground embodies the family's motto of Love Every One.

"Having a place for every single person to be able to go and participate, we're really excited about this playground," Meredith said.

"The enthusiasm that comes from him, it starts with parents wanting to go and be somewhere but it comes from the place that you go," Adam said. "When we would come to the park for Leo, and when Meredith and Leo would go for a run, the park rangers, the maintenance crew and the staff here at the park would take time to come and say 'hey' to Leo, to do something special for Leo, to help us realize, this is a place where we're welcome, where there's no boundaries for Leo. Where everything is truly possible."

Some of the money raised from the Go Leo Go race event on October 28 will support the park's construction. If you would like to donate, or want more information, contact the Saluda Shoals Foundation. Click here for more information on Leo's Pride and the Go Leo Go event.

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