BARIUM SPRINGS Four teenagers performed Christian rap on the campus of Barium Springs Home for Children on Thursday, as other youths slithered down a 14-foot slide, balanced themselves on logs and took turns on chimes and drums.
Those outdoor activities are part of the new 1-acre Barium Springs Therapeutic Park, set under a cooling canopy of poplars, oaks, maples and dogwoods.
Founded in 1891, Barium Springs serves abused and neglected children from across the state through group homes, foster care and adoption. The agency employs about 300 professionals and served about 3,000 children and families last year.
Up to 400 children will regularly use the park to interact in good ways with others, said chief program officer Sharon Bell.
Many of our youth suffer from depression and low self-esteem as a result of abuse and neglect, Bell told Barium Springs staff and community volunteers at the parks ribbon cutting on Thursday. Their mental illnesses and effects of abuse are often expressed with negative behavior. When kids and teens cannot verbalize their feelings, they act out inappropriately.
The park offers youths a chance for discovery and self-expression through play and music, Bell said, while reducing aggressive, intense behaviors, and enjoying the benefits of physical activity.
Donations and volunteers from 10 companies, foundations and churches made the park possible, including Davidson College Presbyterian Church, Bethel Presbyterian Church in Cornelius, Speedway Childrens Charities, Hope at the Lake Foundation and the Lowes Charitable & Educational Foundation, which awarded a $25,000 grant.
Fifteen employees from the Lowes store in Troutman spent four hours delivering mulch down a 45-foot embankment to the park and then spreading it across the property, said Colleen Thorn, the stores human resources manger.
The park also includes a climbing wall, story-time amphitheater, entrance arbor and an adventure deck and rope climb where children can imagine being in a treehouse or at sea on a pirate ship. The park is for youths served by Barium Springs and isnt open to the general public.
Barium Springs, about 35 miles north of uptown Charlotte, can expand the park to a total of 4 acres.
The agency envisions a second phase with water and sand play areas and boulder and log scrambles, once it can raise more money.
Teens as well as younger boys and girls served by Barium Springs immediately took to the park after Thursdays ceremony, including Nicholas, 13, who minutes earlier had addressed the crowd.
This park is especially for all the children to feel safe, Nicholas said before heading to the play areas and quickly working up a sweat. Your generosity will help many families for generations to come.
Marusak: 704-987-3670; Twitter: @ jmarusak
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