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Friday, 15 January 2016 10:27

Local mom spearheads effort for all-inclusive Lake Geneva playground

Written by  Edwin Scherzer
Dusti Ocampo and her daughter, Kameron, enjoy a light-hearted moment. Ocampo’s request to add some swings to Lake Geneva’s Veterans Park has turned into an effort to build an all-inclusive playground at the park. Ocampo is looking for people who might want to help in the planning, designing and building of the project. Contact her at 262-206-6991 or dustigrenus@gmail.com. Dusti Ocampo and her daughter, Kameron, enjoy a light-hearted moment. Ocampo’s request to add some swings to Lake Geneva’s Veterans Park has turned into an effort to build an all-inclusive playground at the park. Ocampo is looking for people who might want to help in the planning, designing and building of the project. Contact her at 262-206-6991 or [email protected] Terry Mayer

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- A local mother and a group of like-minded citizens are ready to move forward with a proposed all-inclusive playground in Veterans Park. Dusti Ocampo, 35, didn’t set out to be an activist, however, she does have one good reason to push for the park -- her 16-year-old special needs daughter, Kameron.

Ocampo, who was instrumental in obtaining similar playground equipment at Wheatland School, said there is a genuine need for such a facility in Walworth County.

“I have a special needs daughter, and she attends school, however, there is not a lot of anything for these kids to do, no summer camps or activities,” Ocampo said.

Kameron wants to be like any other kid when it comes to fun, and she loves to swing.

However, the playground equipment at Lakeland School in Elkhorn isn’t available during summer when school isn’t in session. This prompted Ocampo to contact the city of Lake Geneva and make a request for some adaptive equipment.

However, a larger idea soon took shape.

“I approached them to put in a couple of swings, and I thought, ‘Why not make it an all-inclusive playground?” Ocampo said.

She originally emailed the city administration last summer asking what she could propose.

District 2 Alderman and parks board member Al Kupsik said they would love to see something like this come into the city.

“It’s been a long time coming and it’s a golden opportunity to bring about an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) facility, which will be an added attraction to Veterans Park,” Kupsik said.

With the idea presented to the parks board, the project was greenlighted to be presented to the city council, and $15,000 was earmarked to get started. Additionally, 11,000 square feet of Veterans Park has been put aside for when the groundbreaking finally is set. The total cost of the project is estimated to be about $1 million.

Most of the money raised will be through fundraisers, private donations and social media funding sites.

However, District 3 Alderman Bob Kordus said he could see additional monies put forward by the city.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the city could come up with additional funding, through creative financing, modified budgets or such,” Kordus said.

Veterans Park sits in Kordus’ district and already has playground equipment, which made it a natural site to integrate with the proposed facilities.

In addition to some positive citizen comments about the project, the alderman echoed Ocampo’s sentiment.

“The special needs community really is an underserved population in Lake Geneva, and there really is a need to enhance the facilities for kids with special needs,” Kordus said.

Ocampo knows it will take a small army of community-minded and special needs oriented individuals to bring the project to completion, something she hopes to accomplish in two years. So far the steering committee for the playground is unnamed, however, Ocampo is looking for people who will share her dedication to the project.

“In the beginning we were looking for an architect, a lawyer, etc., but we are searching for people who have a passion for special education ... “ Ocampo said.

Someone with a sense of bringing together special needs individuals with the services they require is Walworth County Supervisor Dave Weber, chairman of the Walworth County Children with Disabilities Education Board.

Weber said the park would be a good fit for the overall benefits offered to those with special needs.

“We do a good job of attempting to meet the needs of children and adults and have holistic services to give them a richer and fuller life,” Weber said. “This park would fall into a category of meeting their needs.” 

Ocampo is more than capable of bringing the project from idea to finished development, having been an office manager, business owner and mother to Kameron.

Ultimately, what started as meeting a need for one could turn into meeting the needs of many.

“It means everything to me, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this, to see the smiles on the kids faces,” she said. “The magnitude of this park will be huge. And it’s not just for kids, it will be for adults, too.”

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