Son's Disability Inspires Family to Improve Access to Charlottesville Parks
A Charlottesville family is turning the loss of 5-year-old Bennett Charles McClurken-Gibney into inspiration to create an all-accessible park their son would have loved.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A Charlottesville family is turning their loss of a young son into hope for children of all abilities.
Five-year-old Bennett Charles McClurken-Gibney lost his battle to spinal muscular atrophy a month ago. His family misses him every day, but decided to use their grief to create a park their son would have loved.
"We would climb up the slides, and we would climb through the tunnels and we would… But so often he would need an adult to color the thing he wanted colored,” said Bennett’s mother, Kara McClurken.
"He could be in a group of toddlers or young kids that wanted to run around, and be super-active. And he would have a game that he made out of mulch on the tray of his wheelchair, and he had a way of making everybody around him come together,” Brian Gibney, Bennett’s dad, said.
Charlottesville’s parks are already wheelchair accessible, but not all of the equipment or ground is friendly to those with disabilities. Bennett's family wants to change that with the vision of a park every child can enjoy.
“All of the parks in Charlottesville are accessible, but what we're talking about is an all-abilities park, which is different than just being accessible," McClurken said.
The city is advancing the Bennett’s Village project, and plans to meet with the family in the next couple of weeks.
“Certainly we would like to see this happen at some point in the future, in a park in the region,” said Brian Daly, director of the Charlottesville Department of Parks and Recreation.
The park will be modeled after ideas from community members and other groups.
"We want to provide a variety of experiences across the ability and age spectrum,” said Daly.
The Charlottesville School Board plans to hold a moment of silence to honor Bennett during Thursday’s meeting.
If you're interested in volunteering to help with fundraising, or have ideas for the park, you can email the family here.