Baltimore County News
County’s largest, most accessible playground for special needs children
Angel Park officially opened today, welcoming kids of all ages and abilities to enjoy a safe, all-inclusive playground specifically designed to accommodate children with special needs by eliminating physical and social barriers to inclusion.
This afternoon, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz led a passionate crowd of Angel Park volunteers, donors, Perry Hall recreation and community leaders and elected officials in a ceremonial ribbon-cutting. This unique playground and amphitheater, located next to the Perry Hall Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, was conceived and majority-funded by community members.
Kamenetz presented official Baltimore County Hero pins to Kelli and Andy Szczybor, who were inspired to create Angel Park in memory of their son Ryan, who died as a baby. “When you lose a child, you are just looking for something to help them live on and to help your family to heal,” said Angel Park co-founder Kelli Szczybor.
“I am amazed and tremendously impressed with what all of you have accomplished here,” Kamenetz told the Angel Park group. “You saw a need, came up with a very ambitious plan, and you got it done! The result is a remarkable gift to your community - a gift that will improve the quality of life in Perry Hall for generations to come.”
The playground design was developed with input from 4,500 pre-K through fifth graders from the Perry Hall area. The park includes a wheelchair-accessible “shaky bridge,” a Braille panel, therapeutic swings, 30-foot accessible zip lines, as well as quiet spaces for children with autism and other conditions. The storybook theme features a fire truck, pirate ship, castle, music stations, and a treehouse. Local elements include a seafood store, a Terps turtle, a Police station, an ice cream shop and more.
Funding for Angel Park
Angel Park is the result of three years of energetic fundraising, and hands-on work by thousands of volunteers from the Perry Hall Recreation Council and broader community. Funding for the park came from more than 200 donors at varying levels, sponsorships from corporations, local restaurants, and individuals as well as government grants. Baltimore County Government contributed a $250,000 grant from capital funds, as well as providing the land for the park and ongoing maintenance.
Annual Commission on Disabilities Luncheon Marks 25th Year
It was a full house at the 25th annual Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities Awards Ceremony yesterday afternoon where Executive Kevin Kamenetz helped to recognize the achievements of Baltimore County citizens with disabilities, their families, employers, advocates and organizations.
More than 300 people attended the ceremony and luncheon hosted by the Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities. The Commission provides support and advocacy for County residents with disabilities and works to assure that County programs, buildings and services are open equally to all persons, regardless of their disabilities. In addition, the Commission provides resources and referrals on obtaining services not only from the County but through programs offered by the state and federal government.
“This year’s extraordinary honorees have made a difference in so many lives, whether by providing employment and education opportunities to people with disabilities, or by serving as an example of people living with disabilities who are making outstanding contributions to our communities every single day,” said Kamenetz.
This year’s honorees include:
- Jerry Easterly, Principal of Battle Monument School, winner of the Education Advocate Award
- BCPS Special Education Specialists Sara Egorin-Hooper and Susie Swindell won the Outstanding Commitment to the Arts Award for their annual Very Special Arts Festival at Oregon Ridge Park
- Ryan Henderson, UMBC student and Freeland resident, won the Student of the Year Award
- Mr. Ryan Guimont of Kenwood High School, winner of the Teacher of the Year Award
- Valari Dorsey and Granny’s Restaurant in Owings Mills, winner of the Employer of the Year Award
- Robert Zerance, employee of Graul’s Market and Freeland resident, winner of the Employee of the Year Award
- Dianna Morgan of the Arc Baltimore, winner of the Disability Support Award
- Ed Slattery of Lutherville, winner of the Family Support Award
- Club 1111, The League for People with Disabilities, winner of the Innovative Community Program Award
- Ronald Day of the League for People with Disabilities and Towson resident, winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award
- Boy Scout Troop 730 of Towson-Parkville, winner of this year’s Special Chairperson’s Award
Opening a World of Recreation for People with Disabilities
One of the greatest joys of my job is to watch the expression on the face of a parent or grandparent of a child or young adult with disabilities when they learn about the programs offered by the Office of Therapeutic Recreation (TR).
It’s like watching a light go off or separating the clouds to reveal a bright beam of sunshine. “I didn’t know” is often what we hear.
Specifically Designed Programs
The Department of Recreation and Parks is quite proud of the services offered through our “TR” programs. Under the superb leadership and advocacy of an exceptional staff and dedicated volunteers, TR offers a wide variety of programs designed specifically for individuals with disabilities, their family members and friends.
Imagine opening up a world of adaptive sports and fitness programming as an option in the life of an individual with disabilities. There is the Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program offered as a cooperative effort between TR and the Maryland Council for Special Equestrians. Individuals with special needs can participate in “Barn Buddies,” “Meet the Horse” field trips, and two summer camps “Ride with Pride” and “Everything Horses.”
“The Sky is the Limit” community theatre in Dundalk offers people with disabilities the chance to shine on stage and behind the scenes in various productions through the year, including a summer performing arts camp.
TR options also include arts and crafts, adaptive aquatics through the League for People with Disabilities, Inc., and adaptive water-skiing in cooperation with Baltimore Adapted Recreation and Sports at Rocky Point Park in Essex.
TR operates 10 summer day camps that run for five weeks throughout the county with swimming, nature, crafts, sports, games and field trips as only a part of the fun and well supervised programs.
Social dances, social programs, sign language classes and horticultural therapy (TALMAR – Therapeutic Alternatives of Maryland) are a part of the vast, impressive and valued services offered through TR.
Details of the TR program are readily available through the office of Therapeutic Recreation by simply calling for your copy the bi-annual newsletter “Leisure Resources” (PDF) at 410-887-5370 (410-887-5319 TTY/Deaf).
Please help us deliver the message of this service by shouting from the rooftops; TR’s a true point of pride in that Baltimore County crown; don’t let it be a secret…let this hidden jewel shine!