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W.K. Kellogg Foundation recognized for reducing barriers to recreation for people with disabilities

The Council on Foundations, the nation’s major organization of philanthropy and grant making, has announced that the Access to Recreation initiative, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation with a $15 million grant in 2006, has been recognized with the Critical Impact Award for demonstrating innovative leadership, bold vision, and significant impact in advancing the common good.

Access to Recreation is a four-year initiative to support community foundations, parks and recreation providers, advocacy groups, and individuals as they work to provide greater inclusion and access to recreation opportunities with a focus on people with disabilities. More than 40 recreation projects, including trails, playgrounds, water access and more, have been built in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. Projects are being built in Chicago and Detroit, as well as the small towns of Shelbyville, Indiana and Pickaway, Ohio.

According to the 2000 Census, 8 percent of non-institutionalized children, between the ages of 5 and 20 have a disability. These percentages increase dramatically with age. Nineteen percent of adults between the ages of 21 and 64 have a disability. For those 65 and older, the number rises to 42 percent. Aging baby boomers and returning veterans from combat overseas add to the totals every day.

“The Access to Recreation initiative was about far more than money,” said Sterling K. Speirn, president and CEO of the Kellogg Foundation. “It’s about people coming together to go beyond. People in communities have shown great ingenuity by designing new recreational opportunities, open to all – like a tree house in St. Clair County, Michigan; a a kayak launch in Michigan’s St. Clair and Midland counties; a splash pad in Columbia City, Indiana; a fishing pier in Champaign, Illinois; and a guidance system for disabled hikers and skiers in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.” All of these recreational activities are open to those who might otherwise be unable to participate.

“It is especially meaningful to the foundation because this program was initiated to reflect the deeply held values of W.K. Kellogg,” said Speirn. “He had a personal interest in helping children with physical disabilities – like his own grandson – participate in all childhood activities that are often off-limits to children with physical limitations. In our home state of Michigan, the state has now determined accessibility as a standard for all playgrounds they build.”

Not as visible as the recreation projects, but just as important, were strategies developed to bring communities together to address local recreation needs; to influence public policy as it pertains to accessibility; and to build awareness of the increasing need for accessible recreation. As part of its efforts to build collaboration and community support, Access to Recreation brought new definition to the role of recreation as it serves the public – as a driver of improved health, economic development, and social justice.

The award will be presented to the Kellogg Foundation during the Council on Foundations’ Annual Conference, April 25-27, 2010 at the Colorado Convention Center, Denver, Colorado.

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