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A child plays on the musical ensemble recently installed at Rivermont Elementary, the first phase of an all-inclusive playground designed for children of all abilities.
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Volunteers break ground on the all-inclusive playground at Rivermont Elementary.

Drumbeats are now a common sound during recess at Rivermont Elementary, where volunteers recently finished building the first phase of an all-inclusive playground.

Designed to be a safe place where children of all ages and developmental abilities can play together, the new playground is appropriate for all students at Rivermont, which has a large number of students with special needs ranging from age 3 through fifth grade, said Principal Jill Evans.

The playground is being funded by the Chattanooga Breakfast Rotary Club, which meets across the street at Rivermont Presbyterian Church and counts the elementary school among its educational partners. When former Rivermont Principal Nikki Bailey approached the club about building an all-inclusive playground at the school, members felt it was a natural fit, said club President Don Brewer.

The playground's first phase, a music station with drums and other instruments, was built last month by around 70 volunteers from the Chattanooga Breakfast and Evening Rotary clubs, the school, the community, and the Rotary-sponsored Interact clubs from Red Bank and Soddy-Daisy High schools and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The equipment was purchased with $14,000 raised through the 2017 Boots, Beer and Blackjack fundraiser held by the Breakfast Rotary Club and Chattanooga Kids on the Block, said Brewer.

When the annual fundraiser was held again last month, $13,000 was raised for the playground, which will be matched by a grant from The Rotary Foundation for a total of $26,000. Those funds will be used to purchase equipment for the second phase, though the club has not yet determined what that phase will include.

The club plans to have the second phase completed by April 2019, Brewer said.

Designed by Chattanooga-based playground equipment supplier PlayCore, the playground's overall cost is estimated to be between $250,000 and $300,000. The club hopes to increase the funds raised at next year's fundraiser by 25 percent, and they are also trying to secure a corporate sponsor, said Brewer.

Once completed, Bailey said the playground will be dedicated in honor of Taylor Bynum, a Rivermont student with several disorders who passed away from surgery complications in June of 2017, just before her 4th birthday.

The school's old playground for students with disabilities, which was built by volunteers more than 30 years ago, will be demolished once the new playground is complete. The school plans to replace it with an outdoor classroom, said Evans.

"Anyone in the community can come and use it after hours," Evans said of the all-inclusive playground, which meets safety standards for children of all ages and developmental abilities.

To learn more about the project or to become a sponsor, visit chattanoogabreakfastrotary.com or email Brewer at dbrewer@fynterprise.com.

Email Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com

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