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Sacramento's Southside Park gets new, inclusive playground equipment

Years ago, Marc Laver got the city to add inclusive equipment. Now, he's celebrating the addition of more.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Marc Laver used to routinely bring his son Jonnie to Sacramento's Southside Park.

Nearly 20 years ago, Marc pushed the city to turn the playground at Southside Park more inclusive. Not long after, the 'Universal Universe' playground was unveiled. It was a new concept at the time, with all inclusive play structures, padded surfaces, access ramps and handrails. 

But after more than a decade of growing up on this inclusive playground, his son Jonnie passed away from meningitis complications in 2019. 

But Marc never stopped visiting the park. 

And in recent years, he noticed the playground's equipment had fallen on hard times. So Marc set out with a new goal, raise funds to repair the playground and install new inclusive equipment, like a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round, a special sensory music area, new bathrooms and braille signage for visually impaired kids. 

Reconstruction and repair begin of November 2021. Now, families are free to enjoy the playground's new amenities. 

Phil Serna, a supervisor for the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, attended the reopening over Mother's Day weekend with a smile on his face. 

"It certainly puts a smile on my face to know we have kind, thoughtful leaders here in our neighborhood that are willing to invest," Serna said.

Marc knows the improvements would make his son proud. 

"He is here right now, I can feel it," Marc said. "I’m very grateful and I want to thank him, I always thank a lot of people, but today I thank him for allowing this to happen... and I was brave today, this is emotional for me."

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