Kids at Youthville may get play park

When employees of Geotechnical Services Inc. noticed children playing in the company's parking lot, next to drilling equipment and large vehicles, they knew something needed to be done.

The children were from Youthville, a child welfare agency next door, and were using the lot during visits with their birth families.

Now, with help from GSI, those children will have a park to play in if the funding can be raised.

"It will give the kids a great place to run and play and just enjoy being kids," said Megan Smith, Youthville's PR manager.

Youthville offers foster care, adoption and counseling for children in Kansas. The organization also sets up weekly meetings between the youths in its care and their birth families.

These meetings are encouraged to take place somewhere in the community, but sometimes, Smith said, they have to happen at Youthville. That's why children were playing in the lot next to Youthville's Sedgwick County office, located near 47th South and Oliver.

The office is next to GSI, an engineering and environmental consulting firm.

Youthville has indoor meeting rooms where visits can take place, but LeAnne Miller, Youthville's chief advancement officer, said a park would create a "peaceful, nice, secure environment" for the children.

GSI approached Youthville in June to build something safer for the children and decided on a park, said Elisabeth Skibba, business development director at GSI. Construction on the park started last week.

Once the company had the idea for the park, GSI contacted WDM Architects for architectural renderings. The park was designed as a natural playscape, Skibba said. The park is in the lot adjacent to GSI, and the plan is for Youthville to lease the land.

Designs for the park feature a fort, a hill slide, stepping stumps and a chalk wall, among other play places.

There are also areas like a picnic location and a gazebo, places geared toward children meeting with their birth parents and siblings.

"An outside area gives them another place where they can go enjoy the outdoors together and reconnect with their families," Smith said.

For the park to be completed, Skibba said it needs donations. Reece Construction Co. of Scandia has started work, providing labor and equipment, but Youthville and GSI must provide materials.

Skibba said people can donate specific items, like concrete, or money. There are also opportunities for people to volunteer for tasks like planting.

To donate, contact Skibba at 316-554-0725 or eskibba@gsinetwork.com.

Skibba, a mother of three, said the project will make the precious time the children spend with their families even more special.

"When you see those kids already and you see those special times when they do get to meet with their families, it tugs at your heart," Skibba said.

The completion date for the park depends both on weather and funding, but Skibba said August was realistic.

"It's just a fabulous park," Skibba said. "I just want to see it happen."