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When Tara Bennett's 5-year-old daughter, Chloe, was diagnosed as a baby with cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder, she figured her happy, smiling towheaded daughter was destined to stand on the sidelines of neighborhood playgrounds.
But that fear won't become a reality, thanks to a special playground Bennett has advocated for since 2009 that is now being built at Centennial Park near 2000 West and Antelope Drive (1700 South) in Syracuse. With equipment that children of all abilities can play on, Chloe's Sunshine Playground, as it has been named, is designed to unite the community and offer a place where children born with challenges can feel at home.
"This is so much bigger than just my little dream," Bennett said Tuesday of how the playground will help more children than her daughter.
The Davis County Commission and other residents in the county created a committee to develop the playground project, which has resulted in a Thursday gala featuring the African Children's Choir. The performance, called "Wild," will feature 20 children from Uganda ages 7 to 12 who have joined the world-class choir after starting life in their country's impoverished surroundings.
Money raised from the gala will go toward building the playground. Commissioners want to raise $10,000 to $40,000 for the park at the event.
Amid decorations of a rain forest's tangling vines and sounds of a jungle, Holladay resident Greg Anderson plans to attend the gala with his wife and two granddaughters. Anderson said he chose to pay the entry cost of $125 a plate for his granddaughters to see the choir because "it is inspirational."
"Those children will absolutely warm your heart," Anderson said. "It is a very professional group of kids that represent both themselves and their culture at the highest level."
It's also a chance for people like Anderson to donate to a good cause.
Chloe's Sunshine Playground already has groundwork and sprinklers, but is missing equipment which will be installed with proceeds from the gala, said Kaysville resident and playground committee member Neka Roundy.
Bennett said the playground will feature wide ramps, climbing structures and slides and shade areas for children who can't be exposed to the sun due to medications. Those with crutches can play alongside those in a wheelchair. The playground structure is unique because it is also designed for children with autism. It features open space, giving autistic kids a chance to find somewhere that they won't feel panicked, she said.
"It is not only for children in a wheelchair," Bennett said. "The point of it is that [all] children can play side by side."
Bennett's inspiration for the playground, Chloe, is now starting kindergarten in a wheelchair. She doesn't let that interfere with her attitude, Bennett said.
"She is super happy," Bennett said. " She is really bright. She just isn't verbal, so it is hard for her to communicate with kids."
She hopes the new playground will bring Chloe new chances to socialize and will provide other children with an outlet for fun as well.
Concert and fundraiser features the world-renown African Children's Choir
When • 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Where • Davis Conference Center in Layton
Tickets • $125 a plate; 801-451-3278