Evanston’s Noah’s Playground for Everyone won a reader’s choice award in Time Out Chicago Kids’ 2012 Hipsqueak Awards.

It was chosen as the “Best Playground” in their inaugural awards contest, honoring the best in family-friendly arts, entertainment and advocacy in the Chicago area. The playground, accessible to children with special needs and otherwise, is located on Evanston’s lakefront at Lighthouse Beach.

Noah’s Playground for Everyone, located at Lighthouse Beach at Lawson Park on Sheridan Rd., is named after Noah Aaron Cutter. He was born on May 13, 2003 with a number of neurological anomalies.  At first, the doctors were unable to tell how Noah’s neurological architecture would affect his development because some people are able to overcome these problems and function remarkably well.

Soon, however, it became clear that Noah’s challenges would be severe and he would have great difficulty with vision, mobility and communication.  His life would be a struggle with many obstacles to overcome.  Noah passed away peacefully in his sleep on the morning of December 24, 2005.

“This project is a terrific example of a public and private citizen partnership that has provided extreme benefit to the donors as well as all children,” said Evanston Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department Director Doug Gaynor. “We are very grateful that they were willing to share their gift with the greater Evanston community.”

The reason for Noah’s death is not known, but those who know and love him believe that life was just too hard for such a little boy, and that he had done in his two-and-a-half years what he was meant to do: teach about love and tolerance. He has gone to a place where he will suffer no more and be at peace.  Noah’s Playground for Everyone is dedicated to his memory and is a gift to all the children who will play there.

The idea of the playground came about from Noah’s parents, Julie and David Cutter. They wanted to create a playground in their son’s memory that would be designed to serve all children (both able bodied and disabled).

The City of Evanston was contacted by the parents in early 2006. After reviewing a variety of potential projects, the Cutter’s selected the Lawson Park site, located just north of the Evanston Arts Center along the lakefront, for the new playground.

Over the next year and a half, Julie and David worked to raise funds for the project and the City of Evanston’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department worked to prepare design and construction documents for the project.

In total, the Cutter’s raised around $400,000 in support of the project. Project construction began in the fall of 2007 and the playground was dedicated on July 20, 2008.

A playground designed for all children – special needs and otherwise – allows children to play as equals by incorporating elements like:

  • Accessible parking, sidewalks, paths to the playground, bathrooms, and water fountains;
  • A “barrier free” ramp system so that every child – in a wheelchair or otherwise – can reach the playground’s highest points;
  • Rubberized (usually made from reprocessed tires) or specially designed wood chip surfaces to help make the entire playground accessible to a wheelchair and minimize the risk of injury from falls;
  • Bright colors to help those with limited eyesight navigate the equipment;
  • Different textures to stimulate sensory development;
  • Bells, whistles, chimes, and other noise makers to teach cause and effect; and
  • Quiet nooks and crannies to allow children to escape sensory overload if need be.

Currently, the city works with the Cutters to organize volunteer cleanup and planting days at the playground. The city is also working with the Cutters on expanding accessibility related donations to additional park sites and programs.

Leave a comment

The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *