New play space at Darlington

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Members of Darlington Arts Center Board of Trustees and staff hold a ceremonial groundbreaking for a new sensory play space. From left are board member Bob Halpern, Assistant Director Emily Moylan, Executive Director Eric Thompson, and board member Saleem Shaik.

Darlington Arts Center broke ground for a special play space for kids with autism on Saturday.

“It’s much needed and is our gift to the community,” said Darlington’s Executive Director Eric Thompson during a brief ceremonial groundbreaking on a gray and soggy Saturday.

Assistant Director Emily Moylan said before the ceremony that the space is designed for kids with neurodiverse needs—on the autism spectrum—to have a sensory-safe place to play.

“This is the first ever in Concord Township,” she said. “Sensory-friendly play is vital to the development of children, especially children who are neuro-diverse or differently abled.”

The space will have auditory, tactile, and visual stimulation, she added, and it will be arts focused.

According to Thompson, the project is still in the fundraising stage, with $250,000 needed for the structure, security, and a handicapped-accessible doorway for the center itself. Because of the needed funds, the actual construction won’t begin until the spring of 2024 but would be officially opened in October of that year in conjunction with DelCo Art Week. However, it should be before that, he added.

Thompson and Moylan gave a quick walkthrough of the future layout. A dragon head sculpture made from mosaic pieces, a performance circle where kids can put on impromptu plays, sing, and dance, as well as a reflexology path and an art wall.

“It’s all vital to neurodiverse children,” Moylan said, and Thompson added, “It’s what Darlington can do for the community.”

How the sensory play space is planned to look when finished.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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