BROWNWOOD, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A Brownwood mother of two has dreamed of her four-year-old growing up and feeling included, even with Down syndrome. A local nonprofit is making that a reality with a partnership with the city.
It didn’t take long for me to see that Brighton Brown isn’t your everyday four-year-old, as she reached for my microphone and began to sing to the audience at home- unafraid of the spotlight or the camera from her local television station.
Full of life and energy, Brighton ran around Allcorn Park in South Brownwood, going from the swing set to the old metal rocking animals which inhabit the park’s playground.
However, Brighton’s mother, Jana Brown, wasn’t expecting the news she received when she was just 12 weeks pregnant with her beloved daughter.
Brighton was diagnosed early on with Down syndrome.
“She did come four weeks early,” Jana said. “She came out, and they said, ‘we think she has down syndrome.’ I said ‘no, she doesn’t.'”
A second-time mother, laying in the hospital bed in disbelief. Brown acknowledged she was terrified, crying for days on end, not knowing how to care for her newly-born child with disabilities.
Jana did know that Brighton was healthy at birth; a huge blessing, she said. However, she also had to make herself aware to the challenges her daughter would have to face every day.
Jana wanted, dreamed, even, that her daughter would grow up feeling included and part of her friend groups early on. She sought out advice from the ARC of Brownwood, advocating and protecting the rights for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
She found comfort there, and even became the president of the nonprofit. That’s when, five years ago, an idea, which stemmed from her dream, was put on paper and the ball got rolling.
The idea: Establishing, renovating or building a safe, all-inclusive park within Brownwood. This, so that all of the kids, with or without disabilities, could play together.
Fast forward to 2022, the ARC presented a check in the amount of $100,000 to the city to renovate Allcorn Park into that safe-place for children.
Funded entirely from donations, the city of Brownwood accepted the check, helping fulfill Jana’s dream and the dreams of hundred across Brown County who have children with disabilities.
“Raising that amount of money is a tremendous effort,” Brownwood Parks and Rec Director Roland Soto said smiling. “A lot of people believe in this project, evident by how much they’ve raised, so far. Our plan as the city is to leverage city funds to really make this all-inclusive park that much better.”
Soto explained that the city was discussing adding more all-inclusive equipment to the parks for years. He said the donation brought the need to the forefront of their minds, and the timing could not have been better.
“What we’ve seen in the play equipment industry, this year in particular,” Soto said. “I’ve never seen more available to purchase and install.”
He said the city and citizens can feel the excitement building each passing day.
They plan to fence the entirety of the park in, with a busy street only 30 feet from the playground. They also believe Allcorn Park is the perfect location, because right next door is an EMS service, the middle school and the elementary school down the road.
Soto said the city hopes to begin construction as early as January 2023, after working the donation and city funds for the project into this year’s budget meetings this summer.