LUBBOCK, Texas – Cassie Johnston’s daughter, Bryce Johnston, has Alström syndrome. It’s a rare disease that can cause blindness and deafness amongst other symptoms. These circumstances cause Bryce to struggle to play at parks.

“She was crying, I was crying, and I was like, we’re never going back to the park again,” Cassie said. “That’s when I thought there should be a place for kids like Bryce that is indoor, so we don’t have any of the issues with the elements, the weather, the extreme heat, the wind, and a place where the equipment is actually safe for kiddos with disabilities to get around on.” 

Cassie and her nonprofit team at Alström Angels decided to create Milestones Development & Play Park to have a place where Lubbock kids of all abilities could play.

“This is a new concept of bringing everyone together and truly embracing the spirit of inclusion,” Cassie said. “Engaging kids’ imaginations, parents being able to play alongside their child and having that interaction together.”

The $6 million facility is located at 50th Street & Marsh Sharp Freeway. The project has been in the works for quite a while, and like most everything, the pandemic put a damper on its plans.

“Once COVID hit, the cost of everything went up,” Cassie said. “Even though we’re a nonprofit organization, unfortunately, we are not immune to what’s going on in the environment.”

Milestones Park has been four years in the making, but the end is near. Johnston said it just needs a few final touches before it opens and welcomes West Texas families on December 1.

“It’s going to be the most exciting and gratifying experience to watch our families get to come in and play and see the kids light up with joy while they’re exploring the play structures,” Cassie said.

A dream of having a place where Bryce and others like her can belong comes full circle.

(L to R) Bryce Johnston with her mother, Cassie Johnston.

“I look over and she [Bryce] is just climbing and playing in the structures, dripping with sweat, which is awesome,” Cassie said. “That’s how much fun she [Bryce] was having. As a mom of a child who does have a disability and special needs, it was such a different feeling to not have to helicopter or hawkeye every bit of her movement.” 

Park memberships start at $39 and day passes will be $13 per child. Parents and caregivers will not have to pay to watch the kids play.

For more information, visit Milestones Development & Play Park’s website.