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She decided to turn a closing centre into a special playground

autism

By April Murphy

An inspirational Brisbane mother has taken some enormous risks to save a Coopers Plains Playcentre.

Danielle Pritchard is a 37-year-old high school teacher and mother of the three-year-old Amelia and six-year-old Max. Her oldest child was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.

For two years, a local-small-play centre was the only place where mother and son could spend quality time together without being concerned about safety matters.

“Finding a safe space out of the home for a child with ASD [autism] is extremely important for its development and enhances its social skills, however, this can prove to be very difficult,” says Melinda Smith from the online Autism Help Centre.

Unexpected

After visiting the centre for over two years, Danielle was informed that the place was closing. She saw no other option other than to get a business loan and purchase the play centre herself.

“In desperation, I applied for a business loan and purchased the business with some grand plans to turn it into an even more inclusive space for local families,” she explained.

“It is such a remarkable place, words just can’t explain it.  There is a desperate need for a place that caters to children like Max. I just had to buy it. Not just for Max, but for other children and parents needing such an environment,” Danielle says.

She purchased the centre in October 2019 and has already made some enormous changes. The centre is specially designed to cater for children with special needs. “It is a family environment, where even the parents can feel safe,” Danielle says.

Her enthusiasm and drive have helped her create a very special place. She has had an overwhelming response from patrons and even some mothers coming to tears out of gratitude.

Danielle has painted the walls to eliminate visual stimulation, the lighting is now more evenly distributed, the music is soft and calming, a new changing area, a lock-up bathroom and much more.

There will be Zumba, boxing and yoga classes starting soon. The brave mother also has plans to install an interactive floor to cater for children with a disability. A gold coin donation will get you into the Markets at the centre, every second Sunday. 

The centre is thriving, with an average of forty children visiting per day, during the school holidays.  To visit the centre, it only costs $10 for an entire day of play, where competitors are charging up to $30 for a two-hour session.

“It’s not a business for me, it’s not about profit, I don’t take a wage. It is just pure necessity,” Danielle says.

It is a new world for parents of children with disabilities who are unable to socialise outside of the play centre, especially those who are not Australian residents and do not receive funding to support their child’s extra needs.

Be part of it

The Centre is reaching out to the public for help. They are looking for donations of goods, volunteers and you can donate at their GoFundMe page.

Danielle is determined to continue to provide an inclusive welcoming space for the residents of Brisbane. Ultimately, she would like the centre to be hygienic enough so that terminally ill children can also utilise the space.

You can make donations on the GoFundMe page or contact Danielle through the centre Facebook page.  

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