Josiah Hoerter, was born in 2012 as our biological nephew. He was 11 months old when we had the opportunity to adopt him into our home, and he became our son. It was clear to us he wasn’t developmentally on track, yet, several doctors assured us he would catch up and all would be fine. We prayed they were right. As time went on it became clear; all was not fine. The answer came through genetic testing. Josiah had a rare genetic disorder called MECP2 Duplication syndrome. Our little JoJo, would never walk, talk, or gain any kind of independence in his life. His prognosis came with another sobering reality; we would bury our son while his siblings were still young. That happened sooner than anyone expected as he passed in February 2015, three months shy of his 3rd birthday. JoJo’s Jungle came from a promise we made to Josiah. His Make-A-Wish was going to be an accessible playground in our backyard. When he passed, however, the wish ended before it began. We made a promise to design the ultimate all-inclusive playground for our community. So that other families could enjoy his legacy.
To build a unique playground setting where children of any ability can play alongside their friends and families. Our goal is to enrich social skills, sensory learning, and promote physical fitness in a safe environment for every child in our community. The design must meet the above criteria while allowing parents and caregivers to feel relaxed and comfortable in their surroundings.
Walking into JoJo’s Jungle won’t feel like a typical playground setting. You will be immersed in a large natural tree canopy for a real jungle feel. Parts of this area support two endangered species; the Monarch and Karner Blue butterflies. Children and adults can learn about the amazing life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly.
The only “separation” in this all-inclusive design by age. There are three, distinct, playgrounds targeted to the play styles and developmental needs of each age range.
“The Jungle" playground, for 5 to 12 year olds, is wheelchair accessible up to eight feet high. The summit is a large grass hut packed with activities from top to bottom. A transfer point continues to a slide tower up to 18 feet. A sensory-rich accessible cave with a six-foot high roller slide lets the imagination run free.
The two to five-year-old playground has an open concept design with plenty of room to run. Children will be climbing, wiggling, wobbling, spinning, and running. Parents have a clear line of sight from all directions around this playground.
Toddlers, six months to two years, have their own play area shaded from the sun. Youngsters can safely learn to navigate stairs, ramps, and slides without being trampled on by older children. This area is also rich with sensory panels, toddler pull-up bars, and specialty swings.
To further elevate the design, JoJo’s Jungle also sports a cause-and-effect splash pad, accessible zip lines, quiet chalk drawing area, music ensemble, and two picnic areas with more shade.