Scarlet's Playground for children with all abilities opens after coronavirus, vandalism

"It has been a long strange road we have had to overcome - a global pandemic, a mountain of red tape, early winter and some idiot vandals," said Stephen Clark. "But here we are, it's time to play today."

If you build it, they will come - it just took a little longer for Scarlet's Playground to finally open inside Dodge Park in Commerce Township.

"It's a really big day for me," said Scarlet Clark. "It is kind of like my birthday it is a lot for me."

The all-inclusive playground is named after Scarlet Clark, who has spinal muscular atrophy - a disease that has left her in a wheelchair and has kept her from playing with other children, until now.

"They may have good equipment for her but it is not with the other kids," Stephen said. "We felt she is already segregated from her wheelchair, there is no need for a playground to segregate her too."

Scarlet Clark

"It's ramped, so a wheelchair can go throughout the entire structure," said Larenne Clark. "Most playgrounds, you go in and the first obstacle you hit, is a bridge or stick and any child with a physical disability is challenged. (With) this, you can go in one end the playground out the other."

With Scarlet's Smile Foundation, her grandparents, Stephen and Larenne Clark created this 18,000 square foot barrier-free playground.

"A few years ago I was watching her and I thought the things she would accomplish if she wasn't in a wheelchair," Stephen said. "And then I thought she can still accomplish it; she just needs help. At that point I promised I would walk for her, if she would fly for me." 

But last month despite the Stay at Home Order, vandals used bolt cutters to damage key parts of the structure. Deputies eventually caught the culprits.

Stephen Clark

The damage may have delayed the opening, but it not damper the spirits of the kids, especially Scarlet.

"I did go to sleep but I tried to go to sleep fast, so I could get up early so I could get on the playground," she said.

"So unbelievably amazing," said Larenne. "We had the vision of not only building the playground but one day imagining it full of children. Here we are hearing the screams the joy and the laughter." 

"I am happy I can play with my friends now, and not have to worry about hard stuff to go on," Scarlet said. "It's awesome."