The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation has awarded a generous grant to The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) through the USM Foundation. These funds will be used to build a new playground on USM’s Hattiesburg campus.
The state-of-the-art, custom-designed playground will serve as an outdoor therapy space for children with complex communication needs and developmental disabilities who are currently receiving services from The Children’s Center and as an inclusive play space for children in the Hattiesburg region with and without disabilities.
The Children’s Center provides a wide range of services, including speech-language pathology, listening and spoken language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, audiology, special instruction, and social work support, for 140 children in South Mississippi, all at no cost to their families. The playground at the Center’s Hattiesburg location serves an important role in the children’s therapy.
“The playground at The Children’s Center is much more than a playground,” said Sarah Myers, Director at The Children’s Center. “This outdoor space is not used as a break from a child’s therapy. On the contrary, when the space is set up to support it, it is an extremely effective therapy setting. In some cases, the playground is where we see the most progress in a child’s speech, motor, and social goals. What is more motivating than joining peers on the slide or asking a friend for a push on the swings?”
Added Myers, “This new playground, with its custom-tailored design and carefully chosen play equipment, will be the setting for countless milestones reached in the coming years. What a gift. We cannot overstate our excitement about this project or our gratitude for the generosity of our friends at the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation.”
The Children’s Center also hosts inclusive play opportunities for children and families within the community. These play events will accommodate many more families and individuals, broadening the impact of these bi-annual events, thanks to the expanded and updated space provided through this grant.
The Children’s Center has already seen firsthand the impact of a playground designed with inclusion and therapy needs in mind. In 2020, the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation funded a new playground at the Center’s Gulf Park campus location and the impact of this outdoor therapy space has been immeasurable. The Center staff and families are grateful to benefit from the generosity of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation once again and are excited to watch Center children thrive in this new space for years to come.
“The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is proud to provide The Children’s Center with an inclusive outdoor playground to encourage children of all abilities and their families to engage in fun interactive play,” said Foundation Director Eugenia King. “Studies show there are a variety of health benefits through both therapeutic and unstructured play, including physical, sensory and cognitive development and social and emotional well-being.”