We have done a wide variety (if you’ll pardon the pun) of things through the Variety charity organization, but we haven’t had the chance to attend their annual picnic in several years. We didn’t really know what to expect, but as it turned out they had quite a selection of activities.
First on the docket was a ride in a golf cart. While not technically part of the picnic’s activities, it was necessary because the parking was not exactly close to the park itself, where the festivities were taking place. It’s also worth mentioning here for a couple reasons.
The first reason is that the people in charge were well aware of, and sympathetic to, individuals like Namine who use a wheelchair as their primary means of ambulation. Our past experience with Variety has shown that they are always thinking of people with a wide range of abilities, and we love them for it.
The second reason I mention the cart ride is because Namine, sitting next to me in the back seat, could not have squealed any louder. I honestly don’t know if she loved or hated it. She was laughing almost the entire way, but she said she was relieved once we arrived and I lifted her out.
When we arrived at the park, we checked in at the greeting desk. The first activity we learned about was fishing. That got Namine’s attention. Zachariah’s Acres has an inclusive fishing spot quite similar to what Variety had set up here, so I knew she would be right at home. I helped her get set up with a fishing pole, but we didn’t have worms as bait. Instead, we had corn kernels.
To say “the fish were biting” would be an understatement. They did like to nibble the corn right off the hook, so Namine didn’t always catch one right away. But as you can see in the video below, more often than not, the result was immediate.
The park had several swings, including one like my parents used to have. That’s the one Namine picked to swing on, of course. This girl could swing for hours if we’d let her (we have, and she has); she has always loved it.
I also want to talk about the swing below. Namine didn’t use it because I am still able to pick her up to transfer her, but this is not the case for all families. In addition to the other kinds of swings, the park also had a wheelchair swing.
The front of the swing drops down, serving as a ramp. Once the chair is on the platform, the ramp swings back up and the chair’s brakes are locked. It’s very rare to see this kind of swing, even for parks which bill themselves as accessible. We love that this park had one!
The park had a range of oversized musical instruments, such as a xylophone, chimes, and bongos. Namine played the xylophone, Jessica entertained herself at the chimes, and I played with the bongos.
There were also a couple picnic tables set up where kids could get a planter with a seed packet of their choice. They could also paint their planter, which Namine would not have refused. I don’t remember what seeds she picked, but she painted the flowers they’d grow into on the side of her planter.
Before we left the picnic, Namine and I decided to take the path around the lake. (Or is it a pond? I’m not sure. It’s small for a lake, but large for a pond.) Our experiences with walkways through woods seems to be hit or miss, since there’s never any guarantee that it will be accessible.
This one I’d classify as “accessible with help,” since there were some spots where I had to lift Namine’s wheelchair over roots and push it through soft ground. We were, however, able to go all the way around. We didn’t have to turn back to go the way we came, although it was hard to tell where we were until we came out into the clearing.