'Kidz Cabin' dedicated at Oakwood's Center for Exceptional Families

The Oakwood Center for Exceptional Families now has a new play area where children of all abilities can get together and interact in a recreational setting.

The Kidz Cabin, a fully-inclusive play structure funded through a grant from Kelly’s Kidz Foundation, was recently unveiled at the Dearborn-based facility. Built in the form of a log cabin, the structure incorporates several unique features designed for children with disabilities to enjoy.

“This playground will bring a new dimension of service to thousands of families throughout metro Detroit,” said Robert O. Kramer, chair of the Center for Exceptional Families board. “The Kidz Cabin will allow children of all abilities the opportunity to explore, learn, create and play together. It will support our quest for “inclusion,” breaking down barriers to participation and belonging.”

Kelly’s Kidz Foundation, which has partnered with the Oakwood facility since 2008, provided $50,000 in funding for the structure. Kelly Hermann, co-founder of Kelly’s Kidz, said it was a natural match for her organization’s goal of improving the quality of life for children with special needs and their families.

“The Kidz Cabin will provide an amazing opportunity for all kids, regardless of disability, to play in a place that is not only safe, but allows them to interact with their peers and siblings,” she said. “It is really important for these kids to be accepted for who they are and Kelly's Kidz is providing one more small step in helping them live the best life that they can.”

The Kidz Cabin, which was the brainchild of Tammy Morris, Clinic Rehab Manager at the Center, will also serve as an alternative physical and recreational therapy location. It features a giant crawl through log, with sand at the bottom to provide a sensory experience—as well as a fun way to get into the sand pit; huge sloping sidewalks that allow wheelchairs and walkers to easily access the cabin. There are climbing ropes and different types of steps for children that are learning to walk. It even has a pond-less water feature that provides a soothing place to sit.

Dr. Susan Youngs, medical director at the Center, said the Kidz Cabin would get plenty of use.

“The Kidz Cabin will allow our special kids an opportunity to play with their peers, friends, brothers and sisters regardless of their abilities,” she said. “It will help build the foundation for a happy, active childhood. It will build friendships and bring families closer together. It will be a place where imaginations run free, where a special needs child can be a kid - without limits.” 

The Center for Exceptional Families is based in Dearborn, but serves more than 3,500 families with special needs children throughout Wayne County—and beyond. The Kelly’s Kidz Foundation has provided nearly $200,000 in grant funding to the center to help offset the expense of Children’s Special Health Insurance, purchase new, specialized equipment, provide a driving program to help teens with special needs become more self-sufficient and to fund scholarships to help teens earn graduate certificates or degrees.

“Our partnership with Oakwood's Center for Exceptional Families is really a perfect fit as both organizations have the same goal in mind: help the families with special needs kids make their lives a little bit more manageable,” said Hermann, whose daughter, Maggie, was born with cerebral palsy. “Having a child with special needs really helped us realize how doing something even as little as providing a place for the all kids to play together will make a huge impact on providing some normalcy for the families; and that is what it is all about is family.”

“We are truly appreciative of this gift and the generosity of so many donors who help us bring these vital services to the community,” said Carla O’Malley, executive director and president of the Oakwood Foundation. “We could not do it without their support.”

CUTLINE: Left to right: Brian Wallace, Cathy Wallace, Margaret Demmer, John E. (Jack) Demmer, William Hermann, Sue Hermann, Kelly Hermann, David Hermann, Laurie Hermann, and Bill Hermann celebrate the arrival of a new play structure at Oakwood’s Center for Exceptional Families in Dearborn.