Tree Houses for the Handicapped

Handicapped people miss out on a lot of the fun and excitement in life. From riding bikes to jumping rope to running after a ball, those in wheelchairs get shortchanged, but not any longer. Now anyone, no matter what their handicap, can climb a tree.

Forever Young Treehouses, started in 1998, is a place that cares about handicapped people. They care so much, in fact, that they began building wheelchair accessible tree houses all over the country. They build at parks, homes, camps, and for organizations. Now anyone who is wheelchair bound can still be on top of the world.

Forever Young Treehouses is a committed organization whose founders, Bill Allen and Phil Trabulsky, MD, had a vision and made it happen. Both members of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Vermont, they had an idea that would allow children with disabilities the opportunity to participate in something that they, otherwise, would not be able to do.

Their completed projects include a tree house at Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services in Watertown, WI, Camp Ta-Kum-Ta in Colchester, Vermont, The Candlelight Ranch in Lake Travis, Tx, the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield, NH, the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp at Ashford, Connecticut, the Make-a-Wish James’ Treehouse in Milton, Vermont, Oakledge Park in Burlington, Vermont, Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, Vermont, and Cradle Beach Camp in Angola, Ny.

Current projects include Barrington Parks & NISRA in Barrington, Il, the Charles Wilson Park in Torrance, Ca, and the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Va. Each tree house is uniquely different from all the others.

First the crew does an evaluation and planning session, deciding on the exact location on the property. They spend the better part of a day just examining the proposed property and deciding on things like views, what tree(s) can accommodate the house, and so forth. They even take it one step further and call in an experienced arborist to be sure the proposed trees can handle the new tree house. The crew set about designing the structure, adhering to the ADA requirements and any applicable codes.

Building a tree house of this magnitude requires quite a budget but Forever Young Treehouses will work with the stakeholders to get the community involved. They work with individuals, big business owners, small business owners, and the general community to get the word out and donations in.

Local hardware stores donate lumber or tools, town folk pitch in to help build the houses, and even city officials often get involved in the actual work.

If you’re considering a tree house on your property, whether it’s church property, a kids’ camp, or your own backyard, contact the Forever Young Treehouses staff and get the ball rolling. You’ll need to send digital photos of the proposed site(s) along with a contact information sheet and a questionnaire that is downloadable from the site. An “earnest money” deposit is required for them to begin the planning. After that, they’ll work with you on getting permits, funding, and other necessary things. Learn more by visiting their website.

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