Albuquerque Parks & Rec holding all-inclusive ‘play-dates’

Courtesy: ABQ Parks and Recreation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – When the City of Albuquerque opened a park in honor of fallen police officer Daniel Webster, it didn’t open just any park.

Now, a few months later, the city is teaming up with the Special Olympics to promote its inclusive features.

The sound of kids playing at Daniel Webster Children’s Park is a tribute to the fallen APD officer. He was said to have had a special bond with children.

“It’s a park for all abilities and welcoming for all people,” explained Christina Sandoval with the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The park opened in May. While all city parks are built according to ADA standards, this one is unique.

“This one went above and beyond, so we have things for kids with autism or spectrum disorders with sensitivity,” Sandoval said. “We also have things for [children with] mobility issues.”

Now, the City’s Therapeutic Recreation program, along with the Special Olympics, is bringing kids of all abilities together with the Super Kids Play Club.

One Saturday morning a month the park is hosting the play date. Sandoval has children of her own with special needs, she says “as a parent it’s hard to find places where they fit in, sometimes you’re at the park and you’re getting the weird looks and you don’t really feel welcome.”

Saturday was only the second event, but it is already making a huge difference.

“It’s a way for us all to kind of accept what is different about us, but also celebrate what we’re really good at,” Sandoval said.

“The best part of the day was a grandmother who brought her grandson who is in a wheelchair,” Sandoval explained about the first play date the city held. “At the end of the day, he just had the biggest smile on his face and so did she.”

Organizers say the monthly events are also a way for parents of kids with special needs to connect with each other.

“It really made me feel amazing because it’s showing that we are all people and we all can do all this stuff together,” said Therapeutic Recreation employee Matthew Montoya.

To learn more about the Super Kids Play Club, click here.