Kids Together Playground at Marla Dorrel Park

The Opportunity

In 1993, Kristin Holcombe and Helen Rittelmeyer, then ages 7 and 6, had the idea to create a playground in Cary that would be comfortable, inviting, and fun for their younger sisters who had special needs. Their dream became a reality when Cary began to design the playground in collaboration with Robin Moore, an architect and professor at the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI), a research and professional development unit at the College of Design at NC State University. The non-profit Kids Together, Inc. officially formed in 1995 to support the playground project through fundraising and awareness campaigns.

Innovations and Improvements

Use Nature to Nurture:

  • The park was designed and built to incorporate nature.

Create Diverse Spaces and Activities

  • The playground has spaces for all kinds of activity: composite structures, swings, pathways, gathering areas, open lawns, and sand areas.
  • Equipment and nature stimulate all senses and all body parts.

Foster Safety and Support:

  • The park uses nature to remain contained while still giving children a sense of freedom; shade and lighter-colored equipment decrease the likelihood of overheating.

Enhance Accessibility and Inclusion:

  • It was designed and built for universal access to play structures/equipment, ground surfaces, pathways, benches, and restrooms.


  • Kids Together, Inc. created detailed instructions for the Town of Cary on how to maintain the park, and there has been a collaborative partnership with the Town from the beginning.
  • Kids Together, Inc. monitors the park and fundraises for additional needs.

The Impact

As imagined by the girls, Kids Together Playground features diverse play settings; it meets individual and developmental needs and fulfills preferences of learning styles, personality types, friendship patterns, and culture. The playground’s focus on universal design ensures accessibility for families and children with special needs. Kids Together Playground integrates manufactured play equipment and the living landscape, including nature such as flowers, plants, trees, surface materials, and animals. 

The park manages to remain contained while still giving children a sense of freedom. Parents are able to supervise their children from afar, letting them climb and explore independently. The inclusion of natural elements and the flow of the playground ensure that children and families do not feel trapped or fenced in.

“The first parking lot is usually full. That’s a measure of how busy the park usually is. Regardless of the age and stage that your kids are at, all children can engage with the playground.” —Rebecca Jackson, Kids Together, Inc. Board Member

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