Sponsor pullout dampens plans for new accessible playground

Some disabled youngsters in Lawton will have to wait a little longer to get their promised special playground, if they get it at all.  The playground was to be built at Brockland Elementary School where James Westbrook attends.  He and his father are both disabled and the family was chosen earlier this year by "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" to have their home rebuilt.

One of the leaders of the campaign for the family said she wanted to bring a handicapped accessible playground for James and others to use at the school.  But, seven months later there is still a vacant field with no playground.

Unfortunately, the kids are let down at the end of the day because of a lack of communication between Linda Jefferson and Brockland Elementary.  Jefferson is a Lawton realtor who was instrumental in the petition to get the Westbrook family's new house built on national television.  She also thought she could make a difference for little James Westbrook and his school, but, Jefferson is distraught that the playground was never built after construction on the home was complete.

"I don't like the fact that I told all of these kids there going to get a playground and there's nothing I can do about it," she said.  Jefferson says she rounded up several corporate sponsors and one of them pulled out in May.  "They wanted Extreme Home Makeover airtime...that was something I couldn't do nor give them," she said.  But, she still had several on board.  She says that when the school principal heard of the single sponsor pulling out, she sent a letter telling parents and their children that the project was not to be.

The letter, in part, read:

"...The handicapped accessible playground we had planned for our school and announced last February, will not be built as scheduled.  It appears the sponsors who had originally committed to the funding of this project have pulled out.  I am deeply sorry for the disappointment for our children, parents and supporters..."

Jefferson says she was shocked.  She says she never received this letter and never planned to kill the project.  She says she was blindsided by it and tried to contact the principal but was never able to.  "Here's what I hoped would of happened; I thought we were a community that pulled together instead it was a letter that went out and said it's done," said Jefferson.

But, the school said it had tried to contact Jefferson at they were never able to get in touch with her.  The school administration says it stands by the principal's decision and that it was necessary to inform the parents that the playground wasn't going to be built.

Officials from Lawton Public Schools say they understand that Jefferson's heart was in the right place and they, too, are disappointed that the project didn't work out.