The ribbon was about to be cut, and 8-year-old Kaleb Samson couldn’t wait.He strained toward the Heinzerling Foundation’s new outdoor sensory garden yesterday and, seconds after the ribbon fell, he was the first inside, already soaked from the sprinklers near the entrance. For the next 20 minutes, the small boy gleefully danced in the cool, drizzling water. The Heinzerling Foundation, at 1800 Heinzerling Dr. on Columbus’ South Side, is home to 200 children and adults with severe or profound developmental disabilities. The $400,000 garden is designed to engage nearly all of their senses, said Brian Asbury, the foundation’s director of development and public relations. The bright colors appeal to residents who are visually impaired. Musical instruments such as chimes, bongo drums and rain sticks engage those with hearing impairments. The plants provide pleasant scents, and the entire garden is a tactile experience — the sprinklers, the textured stone or wood walkways, and the swings.For residents such as Kaleb, who has been at Heinzerling since he was 1 month old, the outdoor space will be invaluable, said Sanya Kohli, a habilitation assistant. “ He is just the light of our life here. He’s a lot of fun, but he’s a lot of work. He’ll get a lot of use from the garden. ”Residents Stevie Tomassini, 23, and Lizzie Lusk, 19, were excited about the wheelchair-accessible swing. Ninety percent of the residents are in wheelchairs, 80 percent are visually impaired, and 46 percent have hearing impairments. “The garden is nice; the playground is nice,” Tomassini said. “We’re going to have so much fun with it here.”Robert Heinzerling, the foundation’s CEO, addressed the two before the ribbon was cut. “Lizzie, Stevie and all of your friends, this park is dedicated to you,” he said.The center has changed lives, and the garden will, too, said Joanie Fischbach of Conover in Miami County, west of Columbus. In the four years that her 15-year-old daughter, Rachel, has lived at Heinzerling, she has changed from a child who would scream and throw things to one who enjoys opening gifts and swimming, her mother said. “She loves the outside. This will be huge for her.”Garden sponsors include Scotts Miracle-Gro, Limited Brands Foundation, Worthington Industries and Huntington Bancshares.
“The outdoor sensory garden is a true reflection of the community coming together to develop this space,” Asbury said. “There are residents who never get to go out of Heinzerling.
“This is a chance for them to be a part of something special.”