NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – When will it reopen? That’s the question Nashville Zoo gets on a daily basis about the Jungle Gym.
The popular spot for younger zoogoers has been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, there’s good news: the Jungle Gym is expected to reopen in September with a new addition.
“We wanted it custom and something like an eye-popping wonderland,” said Lindsay Ballew. “We wanted kids of all abilities to walk in and say ‘I cant wait to play on this.”
Ballew is the executive director for the Thisbe and Noah Foundation. She has been working with the zoo on the project to add Thisbe and Noah’s Promise Park to the Jungle Gym. “We met with the zoo in December 2018, and they said ‘yes.’ We started raising money in February 2019. We are a small grassroots nonprofit. We had never done a capital campaign, and Nashville embraced us.”
The all-inclusive park has been inspired by siblings, Thisbe and Noah Scott. Both suffered the same rare neurological disease, riboflavin transporter deficiency, before passing away at young ages.
“It’s kind of like ALS in children. Your mind is going, but your body is completely shut down,” Ballew explained.
The foundation promotes research and awareness for children with neurological diseases. Thisbe and Noah were Ballew’s niece and nephew.
“I have to give credit to my sister. She’s the visionary, and I’m the doer,” Ballew said. “She came to me and said ‘I want to do an all-inclusive playground. I think Thisbe and Noah would’ve loved that!'”
The park has a fairytale theme with Trevor the tree gnome, enchanting critters all about, as well as peepholes and little nooks and crannies to explore.
The message behind the name ‘Promise Park’ packs a powerful punch. “Loraine [Thisbe and Noah’s mother] named it Promise Park because she made her kids a promise, when they got sick she’d help them get better.”
Ballew continued, “I don’t believe this, but she feels like she broke this promise to them because they died. So, she wanted to name it Promise Park to keep the promise to them that she’s still loving them every day and leaving a legacy in their name, and also helping parents do for their kids what she couldn’t do for hers.”
Ballew stressed the park is for kids with and without disabilities.
She described what people can expect from the new park. “This is probably my favorite,” she pointed to the we-go-round. “The turf will come up so you can roll right on and have room for typical kids and those in wheelchairs.”
She continued, “There’s going to be Noah’s nature hunt. They loved creating scavenger hunts. We have an amazing one-of-a-kind zipline for a typical child next to a child who’s in a wheelchair or has cerebral palsy. It’s about the side-by-side play.”
She added double-wide ramps on the equipment will allow kids in wheelchairs to go all the way up, so they won’t be left behind by their friends.
Ballew said she’s excited to leave this legacy behind for Thisbe and Noah, “It’s pretty amazing. It’s miraculous to us.”
In addition to building this amazing park, the foundation is also giving away 100 zoo memberships a year to children who have neurological disorders. There are still some available for 2021.
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