BALTIMORE, MD, December 5, 2023 – The Children’s Guild – Transformation Academy, a 12-month, non-public separate day school based in Baltimore, MD, for students ages 5-21, whose primary diagnosis is autism, hosted Maryland Governor Wes Moore at a playground dedication ceremony. The Orokawa Foundation Playground, a brand-new outdoor sensory playground that features 25 inclusive elements that use both standard and customized components for students and caregivers to experience together, was built through a state grant and the support of the nonprofit foundation.
The event featured remarks from the Governor, community leaders, and families whose lives will be positively impacted by this transformative space.
“Approximately 1 in 54 children in the United States have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and we are pleased we are able to provide a grant to support The Children’s Guild – Transformation Academy,” said Gov. Moore. “Our goals are to enrich student experiences and accelerate student outcomes, as well as improve the quality of education for all children in Maryland, especially those who have been historically underserved. This new inclusive playground is a wonderful example of grant money hard at work.”
“We thank the Governor for recognizing the need at The Transformation Academy and providing the funding to build a beautiful play space for our students, many whom have the most severe form of autism and require substantial support,” said Jenny Livelli, President and CEO, The Children’s Guild. “We also thank The Orokawa Foundation for their generosity to support this wonderful new play space which means our students have access to equipment and an environment specially designed to meet their needs.”
“Every child should experience the joy of a playground. The Orokawa Foundation is thrilled to support this amazing project which promotes sensory exploration, sparks students’ creativity, and helps them develop a passion for learning beyond the classroom,” said Samantha Cleland Manekin, Executive Director. “We are also touched by the school’s gesture of honoring our father, Bruce Cleland, in such a meaningful way.”
The playground, designed by Sparks at Play, offers collaborative, imaginative, theatrical, structured, and non-structured play. The 25 inclusive elements use both standard and custom components for students who have sensory, autism, hearing, and learning disabilities. The play function links all the components – down to the surfaces which is made of artificial turf, so students have a completely sensory and accessible experience. The Orokawa Foundation Playground embodies a holistic approach, integrating a myriad of sensory experiences that encourage exploration, interaction, and imaginative play.
“The dedication of the Orokawa Foundation Playground marks a milestone in our school’s journey toward creating spaces that are truly inclusive. This playground is not just a recreational area; it’s a symbol of our dedication to ensuring that every child in our school feels welcomed and valued,” said Vesna Grujicic, Principal of Transformation Academy. “This new play space represents a significant milestone in our commitment to providing an inclusive educational environment. This space not only fosters play but also supports the social, emotional, and sensory needs of our students on the autism spectrum, empowering them to thrive.”
The Transformation Academy provides skills and support to students and their families across a variety of settings including home, workplace, and community. The teachers and administrators provide programming to foster growth and independence for each student utilizing a collaborative team approach of highly trained professionals, including special education teachers, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, behavior specialists, transition coordinators, and therapeutic behavior aides.
The Transformation Academy is part of The Children’s Guild (TCG), founded in 1953 and celebrating its 70th anniversary. TCG is a leading MidAtlantic nonprofit organization focused on helping students and families find success socially, emotionally, educationally, and developmentally through special education and charter schools, school-based mental health services, treatment foster care, autism services, family mental and behavioral health services, and workforce development programs. Affiliates of The Children’s Guild include The Children’s Guild School of Baltimore, The Children’s Guild DC Public Charter School, The Children’s Guild School of Prince George County, Monarch Academy Glen Burnie, Monarch Global Academy Global Laurel, Monarch Academy Annapolis, Monarch Preschool College Park, The Children’s Guild- Transformation Academy, The Outpatient Mental Health Clinic (OMHC), Treatment Foster Care, TranZed Academy for Working Students (TAWS), and TranZed Apprenticeships. For more information, visit https://childrensguild.org/.