The Swing High Project is a non-profit organization in Colorado Springs, Colorado, whose mission is to build a playground in the Pikes Peak Region that is accessible to children with all degrees of ability. The objective is to establish a playground and play area in the Pikes Peak Region that offers the chance for kids of all abilities to side-by-side explore and discover the world through play. These types of playgrounds, better known as universally-accessible playgrounds, include:
Ramps, so kids and wheelchairs can reach the highest point of the playground
Harnessed seating so kids with less muscular control can enjoy a swingset.
Sensory games, so kids with visual or hearing impairments can touch and feel and experience.
Rubberized surfacing, to allow for easy mobility for wheelchairs, walkers or crutches
Elevated sand tables, to allow for kids in wheelchairs to roll up and play
The name “Swing High” came from the Founder, Michelle Dusserre-Farrell, when she saw her daughter Abby on a swing set in the family’s backyard in Colorado. Abby, who has spina bifida, was on the swing set going as high as she possibly could, laughing and having fun. In those moments on the swing, Abby was without a physical disability and she was enjoying the swing in the same way any child would, no matter their physical ability. Swinging for many children with disabilities creates a sense of freedom and speed that they do not get to experience by running or moving quickly. The name was developed not only to symbolize a personal connection to Abby, but to capture the desires that all children have to feel free from their disability. In that moment, Michelle realized that every child should have the opportunity to “swing high” both on a playground and in life, and the name of the project was born.
About the Founder
Michelle Dusserre-Farrell was the youngest member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team that won the silver medal. Beyond her career as an athlete, Michelle has served in assistant coaching roles at Arizona State University, SCATS Gymnastics in Diamond Bar, Colorado Aerials Gymnastics in Colorado Springs and the U.S. Air Force Academy. She also served as an athlete representative for both USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee, and was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2006. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition from Arizona State University, as well as a Masters of Basic Science in Exercise Science from University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and she is also a Registered Dietitian.
Michelle worked for NBC Television at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games in the Research division. After the 2000 Olympic Games, Michelle worked at the U.S. Olympic Committee as a sports manager for 5-1/2 years, and in 2006 changed careers to spend more time with her daughters, Abby and Zoe, and to develop The Swing High Project.
Need for Playground
According to 2000 Census reports for El Paso County (in which Colorado Springs resides), statistics show a population of approximately 516,000 citizens, with approximately 122,500 of those citizens between the ages of 5-20. Of this county age demographic, approximately 8,400 (7.1%) live with some degree of non-institutionalized disability.
To our knowledge, there are currently no universally-accessible playgrounds open to the public in the Pikes Peak region to serve this population. The closest location known is Broomfield, CO, which is approximately 75 miles from Colorado Springs.
The following is a quote from a child who has played on a less than accessible playground: “At most playgrounds, I have to crawl out of my wheelchair if I want to play. It makes me feel like an ant, with all these giant kids running around me. My wheelchair is my legs. Would you want to take your legs off to play?”