COMMERCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — A local playground designed to fit the needs for children of all abilities has become the target of vandals.
Over the years, Scarlet’s playground located in Dodge Park in Commerce Township has become a labor of love for former WXYZ anchor Stephen Clark and his wife Larenne after their granddaughter Scarlet could not enjoy playgrounds with all children.
Scarlet was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) as a baby, a rare genetic neuromuscular disorder that affects nerve cells and muscle control. Scarlet is in a wheelchair and just wanted to play with all of the other kids.
The inclusive playground has been under construction and the final touches were being made in order for the park to open. It was a shock to discover that vandals took bolt cutters and destroyed several pieces of equipment at the special playground, causing thousands of dollars in damage.
The Oakland County Sheriff's Department the playground was vandalized sometime between May 18 and May 19 in the evening or overnight hours.
“I find it reprehensible any individual would destroy Scarlet’s Playground which was specifically built to allow children regardless of their challenges to have the ability to play,” said Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard. “I encourage anyone with information on this incident to speak-up so we can hold the person accountable for their cruel actions.”
If you have any information on this incident, you're asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP. There is a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and you may remain anonymous.
“We’re disappointed that someone decided to vandalize a playground intended to include children left out of traditional playgrounds,” said Stephen Clark. “We’ve spent years raising money from the community, schools, local businesses and neighborhood organizations who are all invested in this project. It’s them and the kids who are hurt by this senseless action.”
The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department is stepping up patrols and the family is asking neighbors to be on alert if they see anything suspicious.
In a previous interview with Stephen about the project he said - “I made a promise to Scarlet a few years ago. I said I will walk for her if she will fly with me. And this is the community walking for her.”
To learn more about the project go to ScarletsSmile.org.