Myriad Gardens’ Children’s Garden Closing for Playground Equipment Upgrades


Myriad Gardens’ Children’s Garden Closed for Playground Equipment Upgrades

The Children’s Garden at the Myriad Botanical Gardens closed Monday, March 26 until the third week of April for upgrades to the playground equipment. New specially designed equipment for children with special needs is getting installed thanks to the generous funding from the Thunderbird Telecom Pioneers who have graciously chosen the Gardens as a legacy project.

The AbilityWhirl has changed public open spaces by making them accessible to children of all abilities, and are now used in hundreds of play areas, schools, hospices and hospitals. This roundabout is fitted flush to the ground for easy access of wheelchairs and pushchairs. It also has two wheelchair stations, standing space and two seats, one of  which has a support ring for toddlers.

The We-saw™ is a new take on our traditional seesaw. Its unique design and gentle rocking motion invites kids and families of all ages and abilities to participate in the fun. The We-saw is wheelchair accessible. Like all our seesaws, the We-saw provides opportunities for collaborative play and teamwork.

The Oodle® Swing, Double provides oodles of fun for kids! This inclusive playground swing is set side-by-side and kids of all abilities will love the thrill of its left to right and back and forth motion. It is a perfect addition to any new or existing playground – especially play spaces designed with the Evos® play system.

On December 7, 2017, the Thunderbird Telecom Pioneers,  presented Myriad Gardens Foundation with a check for $75,000 to purchase and install the playground equipment.  

A dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting is planned for Monday, April 23 at 11 a.m. in the Children’s Garden to open this new feature to the public.

About the Thunderbirds Telecom Pioneers

The adage of one door closing while another one opens could easily apply to the arrival of new play equipment in the Children’s Garden. When a group of telecom retirees from Oklahoma City Works, the former Western Electric/AT&T/Lucent telephone manufacturing facility, wanted to donate funds as a legacy to their volunteer organization, they turned to Myriad Gardens Foundation for ideas.

At the time, the group, known as the Thunderbird Telecom Pioneers, was seeking a project within the currently under-construction Scissortail Park when they met with Myriad Garden’s Executive Director Maureen Heffernan. She presented them with an opportunity to create an area within the Children’s Garden that was immediate: adaptive playground equipment where all children could play regardless of their physical abilities. As a result, the Thunderbirds provided funding to purchase a swing, a see-saw and a merry-go-round last fall, all designed for children with special needs.

The Pioneers have a long history of community service. Originally organized in 1911 with Alexander Graham Bell as its first member, the Pioneers are a national organization of volunteers who have donated their time, energy and talents to create and provide services, facilities, and innovative contributions for special needs of their respective communities. With the motto, “United we serve,” the Pioneers remain the world’s largest single industry volunteer organization.

The Thunderbird Pioneers is a nonprofit charitable organization that was organized in 1978 as the Oklahoma City Telephone Pioneer Council. The name Thunderbird was adopted in 1995 when AT&T split up the Bell System separating telephone companies from the manufacturing and supply side of the telephone business. During the 43 years of manufacturing in Oklahoma City, more than 25,000 people were employed and eligible to become Pioneers.

The group traditionally raised money for their projects by holding garage sales, various fund raisers, and selling merchandise and popcorn inside the factory. They have used their time and resources for a broad range of projects from renovating apartments for homeless families, to building handicap access ramps at residences, to sending packages to servicemen in the Middle East, producing hug-a-bears to sooth child victims of earthquakes in California, to planting trees in parks and in areas devastated by tornadoes, to upgrading and donating computers to schools. More recently they have volunteered to stock food pantries at the Regional Food Bank, Salvation Army and Skyline Urban Ministries

“When telephone equipment manufacturing ceased at Oklahoma City in 2003, the Thunderbird Pioneers lost their source of new membership,” said Lonnie Austin, president of the Oklahoma City group. “The average age of members is now 80, and participation has dwindled to about 100 active members. A lot of our earlier work required manual labor which has become more difficult for us to do. So, the Pioneers began to search for ways to phase out operations and leave behind some legacy projects. We are happy to provide this first-of-its kind play equipment for children in Oklahoma City.”