The Gardner family, Jennifer and James with daughter Addy and son Bryson.
The all-abilities playground will featured the best elements of playground design, with a special emphasis on accessibility for those with limited mobility, according to the Addy Grace Foundation website. The equipment is colorful, interactive and made to withstand outdoor elements. The entire site will be covered by a giant rubberized farm themed cushioned mat to make it safe and protective for our children.

They aren’t quite to the halfway point in an effort to raise $750,000 for an “all-abilities” playground that will be next to the new Botetourt Family YMCA, but the nearly $300,000 they’ve raised in seven months has made the prospects of completing the effort quite exciting for Jennifer and James Garner of Troutville.

The Garners started the Addy Grace Foundation after learning their now 8-1/2-year-old daughter would likely never have a normal physically active childhood.

She has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Jennifer Garner likened it to Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS except a patient has no use of his or her muscles from the start, it’s not progressive like ALS.

Addy is a normal, bright 8-year-old  third grader, her mother says, except she can’t move. She also uses respiratory equipment since SMA affects her breathing.

For the Garners, the Addy Grace Foundation— a non-profit 501(c3)— is in a sense a way to pay back the support they got when Addy was diagnosed as a baby. They wanted to help others and educate the community and local doctors about SMA, Jennifer Garner explained.

They wanted others to know there are options that families have rather than to accept the prognosis they got that Addy probably wouldn’t live past 2.

Their efforts with the foundation right now are centered on raising that $750,000 for the playground.

This Saturday, their friends at the Jeter Farm off US 460 at Bonsack are helping out by holding a Pig Pickin’ and Barbecue Contest (see related article).

The Jeters are friends with the Garners and Daryl Jeter told them they wanted to do something to help with the playground, James Garner said. A couple weeks ago, the foundation sold ice cream at the tractor pull the Jeters held on property they own near Buchanan.

The Pig Pickin’ was already in the works before that and has at least five professional barbecuers and 10 “backyard” contestants registered.

The playground itself is evolving from when the Garners announced it would be located next to the new YMCA. Daleville Town Center developer Fralin & Waldron is providing the 10,000 square feet the all-abilities playground will have next to the YMCA.

James Garner said the playground won’t go in until construction is complete on the YMCA, and it will only take about 30 days to complete.

The final location for the playground is still a bit of a moving target as plans for the YMCA evolve. Right now, it’s slated to be on the front of the Daleville Town Center property, visible from Roanoke Road.

It will have 63 pieces of playground equipment designed by a Maryland firm that specializes in handicapped playgrounds.

But it’s not just for children with handicaps, James Garner said. That all-abilities description means just that— physically normal kids and children with handicaps like Addy will be able to enjoy the playground. All abilities will be able to play and interact together— an important component to the Garners and for families who have a handicapped child and a physically normal child like they have in  3-year-old Bryson.

The design, too, takes into account children with any number of challenges.

James Garner said they met with and got ideas from any number of people who have children with challenges or work with children with challenges.

As an example, Garner said they didn’t know what sort of equipment might suit a child with autism, so they asked.

The all-abilities playground will be the largest one around. The next closest is in Harrisonburg.

They came up with the idea after Jennifer Garner decided they should take Addy to the beach.

During a trip to Virginia Beach, they ran across an all-abilities playground and decided it’s something they wanted to try to build here.

It will be open to the public— no YMCA membership required— but it will be open during YMCA hours.

James Garner  wanted to be sure to thank the community for the support, backing and financial contributions the Addy Grace Foundation has received for the project so far.

“This is a Botetourt community project,” Garner explained. “Quite a few Botetourt companies have made large donations, and getting more companies involved would be fantastic.”

A Donors tab on the website takes visitors to a list of donors to “The Farm,” the theme that the playground is designed on.

“We’ve raised over $300,000, and want to thank the community for making donations that make dreams come true in this area,” Garner said.

Those who want to make a donation can do so online at the foundation website: https://addygracefoundation.com/

There’s also more information about SMA, the foundation and the playground.