A Canandaigua playground where everyone has a voice

CANANDAIGUA – Don’t tell the kids, so try to keep the following a secret from parents.

The Motion Junction playground near Outhouse Park in Canandaigua – the name Motion Junction comes from the inspiration of the all-inclusive playground, MJ Bentley – isn’t quite finished yet.

Of course, the playground, described as a wacky and sometimes crazy dream for the past few years, celebrated a grand opening Saturday of the playground, attracting hundreds of children of all abilities to swing on swings , slide on slides and well, zip line on zip lines.

A large open-air pavilion that will have a concession stand, a charging station for electric wheelchairs, scooters and communication devices, an accessible picnic area and four large family restrooms with changing tables for adults – and weatherproof posters created by a third-class Victor with messages of inclusion and kindness – is yet to come.

The same goes for a mindfulness trail around the perimeter of the playground, which already features all kinds and styles of play equipment on a rubberized surface accessible by large, oversized ramps.

Those amenities are for another day. Dylan Zaryk, an 8-year-old from Fairport, is happy as he is now.

“That’s really cool,” he said.

MJ, 11, was diagnosed with Pallister Killian syndrome when he was 6 months old and, as a result, suffers from epilepsy, mobility issues and cognitive delays.

MJ’s mother Nanci Bentley has thanked her son for leading the community on a journey – design work began in 2017 and fundraising continues – in developing a place to play for all children, whatever their abilities and their families.

MJ Bentley, Mom and Dad Nanci and Mike Bentley and more officially open the Motion Junction playground in the city of Canandaigua during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday.

“He opened our minds to think, feel, listen, love and see life in a way that challenged us to be better and to do better,” Nanci Bentley told a crowd on Saturday. “MJ taught us that everyone has a voice. We may not hear that voice sometimes, but if you stop and look and listen and feel, you will hear that voice.”

Sonya Smith, co-founder of the committee that supported the project and MJ’s physical therapist, said five years ago that the playground was a vision, shared not just by those who know and love MJ, but a community. who took on the project, including members of the Kiwanis Club of Canandaigua. Donors big and small — including someone who made an anonymous donation of $400,000 earlier this year — have taken the playground to heart, as has the City of Canandaigua in helping convert an empty lot into a an unmissable place of entertainment.

“That vision became our mission for change,” Smith said. “It continues to be the most incredible journey.”

The playground, said MJ’s father, Mike Bentley, breaks down visible and invisible barriers.

And it’s “huge” because it brings the disabled community together with non-disabled people in one place, said Daniel Fonda, of Canandaigua, who is in a wheelchair. This playground is great because “anyone and everyone” is included in the possibility of having fun.

The playground portion of Motion Junction, a new all-levels playground near Outhouse Park in the town of Canandaigua, is complete.

“I think it’s going to bring our community together and I think it’s going to be there for years to come,” Fonda said. “A lot of children will be able to benefit from it.”

Harold B. McConnell