Taking The Lead
Carmel Eagle Scout Inspired by Sister to Start Handicap-Accessible Playground Project
Writer / Matt Keating
Carmel Eagle Scout Jacob Conn says his sister inspired him to lead a recent Scouts project to build a handicap-accessible playground at Northview Church in Carmel.
“The project involved planning, fundraising and installing handicapped accessible playground equipment in the existing playground at my church,” Conn says. “I got the idea for my project from my twin sister, Sydney.”
Sydney has a rare genetic abnormality that makes her unique.
“Simply put, she has special needs,” Conn says. “I love her so much, and it broke my heart to see how differently she and other handicapped children are treated, just because of their ‘disability.’ So, I started off in 2015, trying to get my project off the ground.”
Conn met with Northview’s staff to discuss the details.
“I began talking with Northview’s Head Groundskeeper, a kindhearted woman named Marcia Schwartz, who later became my mentor throughout my project,” Conn says. “She and I made plans with the Special Needs Minister, Amanda Arroyo, at the church to create a playground that brought together both neurotypical and special needs children, as a way of breaking down barriers between the two and making a greater effort towards community outreach.”
Conn began his fundraising through a “GoFundMe” page and also asked for donations from various nearby neighborhoods and families.
“I also began working with ‘Recreation Unlimited,’ a playground equipment company, to try to purchase the equipment I needed,” Conn says. “Marcia and I had anticipated the cost being far too high, so I worked with her and Amanda at Northview to create a more efficient playground design, utilizing more cost-effective equipment and surfacing.”
Conn noted that they cut costs from the initial estimate of around $27,000 to a more reasonable $12,000.
“After reaching out to as many people as we could, we finally managed to fully fund the project in a little over a year,” Conn says. “Then, last year, we assembled and installed all of the equipment, as well as surfacing, which included a crushed limestone path inside of the playground, six wheelchair-accessible activity panels, two bucket spinner seats, one sensory-accessible crawl tube and two handicapped accessible swing seats.”
The entire playground was also covered in new handicap-accessible playground mulch.
“The installation itself was a lot of fun because some of my friends and family came to help me,” Conn says. “Overall, the experience taught me perseverance through hardship, and I’m grateful for that. From what I hear from Amanda Arroyo, the kids really like the new equipment.”
Conn added that he enjoys helping the community and says it inspires him.
“I give back to the community typically through service, like volunteering with Sunday School at Northview,” Conn says. On an individual level, the Eagle Scouts, like my dad, have taught me to honor God through service to others, as well as dependence on others for help.”
The Scouts have had a continued positive impact on Conn.
“The main concept that impacted me the most was perseverance,” Conn adds. “I learned that if your goal is worth enough to you, you will stop at nothing to reach it. Through every roadblock in this project, I felt like the easy path would be to give up and accept failure. But I knew that it would all be worth it if I stuck with it. I apply this lesson to my life on a regular basis, and for that, I am very grateful for this project.”
Conn encourages other young people to join The Boy Scouts.
“I would encourage a young person to find something they are passionate about,” Conn says. “Not just for an Eagle Scout project, but in general. Finding your passion makes life worth living. My favorite memories involve hanging out with my friends and bonding over camping experiences.”