TEMPE, Ariz.NewGrass™ has made a world of difference at a school for youngsters with special needs, and hefty donations of materials and labor made it all possible.

“Not only has it helped the children, it’s given us a whole new teaching area – outdoors on a nice lawn,” said Patty McCartney, director of Play ABA/Chrysalis Academy, in Tempe, Ariz. “The kids and teachers just love it. We’ve been doing a lot of the group activities outside. It’s opened up a new space for us. It’s given us an outdoor learning space.”

The bulk of the cost of the NewGrass™ installation was donated through the efforts of a school parent who is the operations director for a NewGrass™ distributor, STC (Synthetic Turf Company) of Scottsdale.

Play ABA/Chrysalis enrolls children in kindergarten through fourth grade who have social, language and behavioral deficits. These can include autism and other conditions that create problems related to tactile stimulation and reactions to certain environmental surroundings.

Playgrounds composed of dirt or lose ground coverings, such as bark or rocks, can pose considerable problems for these children. McCartney said many of her students would continually put the playground material in their mouths. Children with autism and other conditions are prone to do that even though they are at an age when other children have learned not to.

Natural turf grasses pose another problem as well. Many special needs children suffer more than normal from allergies. Play ABA/Chrysalis suffered from both challenges. They couldn’t grow grass because of the hot climate, poor drainage and tough soil. And the little grass they could maintain caused allergic reactions.

The school’s new artificial lawn has solved those problems and provided the unexpected benefit of adding an outdoor teaching are as well, said McCartney said.

Chris Harlien, operations director for STC (Synthetic Turf Company) of Scottsdale, was responsible for arranging the work to do the actual installation and the materials for the base and in-fill to landscape 1,450-square-foot play area at the 24-student academy.

Harlien’s daughter, Presley, is autistic and began attending Play ABA/Chrysalis this fall. When Harlien first visited the school, the surface of its play area was a combination of the dismal remains of traditional sod grass that had failed to thrive, a ground covering of bark chips, and even the deposits of an earlier attempt to apply a cover of rock and chipped rubber.

Harlien said the school approached him about the feasibility of synthetic lawn, when they learned he sold it for a living. The school knew a synthetic lawn would be a major improvement, but it didn’t have the money to buy one, McCartney said.
Harlien arranged for three of STC’s vendors to provide the backing and infill material for the installation. Harlien and a couple of friends installed the yard. The school paid for the cost of the NewGrass™.

The bottom line: Play ABA/Chrysalis got a $9,700 synthetic grass play area for $3,000.

Rockmart Landscaping Materials, in Chandler, donated nine tons of aggregate stone for the base material, said Tracy Stafford, assistant to the vice president of Rockmart.

For the installation’s infill, CRM of America donated 2,000 pounds of rubber crumbs and Atko Building Materials donated 4,000 pounds of sand.

“We’re thrilled with the result,” McCartney said. “The surface is ideal. If we move into a bigger space, we would definitely install this from the beginning.”

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