A new playground for children with autism was added to the American Fork Community Presbyterian Church in the end of July as a part of their 140th anniversary.
The project began when the church realized there were no playgrounds enclosed and safe from traffic in the American Fork area. In the last few years, they were able to raise $65,000 to make this playground possible.
The design creates a closed playground space, which keeps the children safe from traffic. The design also allows the parents a complete view of the playground from the seating area, providing a place of comfort and rest.
“This playground is for the community. It is our project that we designed for them to continue the tradition of giving and helping the community,” Pastor Michael Heil of the American Fork Community Presbyterian Church said.
In the church’s 140 years, the pastor said the roof has been failing under the snow and tiles fall every winter in the sanctuary and education buildings.
The church began raising funds toward its restoration. A fundraiser took place the beginning of July, where over 200 people from the community were in attendance.
“It was amazing how the community came to be with us. The unity that was present was amazing,” Heil said.
The American Fork Presbyterian Church is often known as the church that made an appearance in the movie “Footloose,” but its role in the community as the first public school is often forgotten.
It began with Presbyterian missionary Ada Kingsbury, who made the arduous trek to Utah in 1879 to start a school for children living in American Fork and neighboring towns. During this time in America, public education had not reached the West. Kingsbury was able to establish a school for children in Utah County, regardless of their faith. Her goal was peace, love and hope for a brighter future for children and their families.
“We have a heart of service to benefit and help the community,” Heil said. “We have been here 140 years, and we plan to be here, at the very least, another 140. We’ve been through decades and decades of trial and partnership, and through that we have met every week for 140 years, worshipping. We’re grateful to be here.”