Welcome the Town of Clayton, North Carolina

We’ve been saying it for eight years now – “Every child deserves a chance to play.” That tagline became a reality for the Clayton community today, Thursday, Oct. 22, when Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod officially cut the ribbon to open the Harmony Playground presented by Caterpillar at East Clayton Community Park.

The Town, in partnership with the Clayton Community Recreational Foundation and numerous community partners large and small, worked tirelessly to build the inclusive playground, which allows children and their guardians of ALL abilities to play together.

The Clayton Community Recreational Foundation, Inc., is a non-profit organization that has helped the community support family events, parks and other Clayton recreation activities for more than two decades.

“Harmony Playground has been a long time coming,” Dean Penny, Foundation chair and a leader of the project’s fundraising efforts over the years, said. “We are excited to have finally reached the stage where we have opened this up to the community.”

Larry Bailey, former Clayton Parks and Recreation Director, said, “This playground was just a dream 10 years ago when the Town started designing East Clayton Community Park. Instead of just putting some swings and slides out here, we knew we had an opportunity to build something unique.”

The Harmony Playground is that. Not only is it the first of its kind in Clayton, at least one of its features offers a truly one-of-a-kind play experience.

The playground’s Music Area was created by the North Carolina State University Park Scholars Class of 2019. Each class of Park Scholars selects a “legacy project” within the community. The 2019 Class approached Clayton Parks and Recreation a few years ago because they wanted to build a playground for children with special needs. The scholars then spent the next two years working in partnership with Parks and Recreation to design, raise funds and, eventually, build the Harmony Playground’s music walls and poles.

 “There are have been so many people involved in this project over the years that it would be hard to name them all. From focus groups to donors and designers, this has been a true community effort.” Current Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard reflected.

Among those who have worked to make the playground possible are local industry giants like Caterpillar, the naming sponsor, as well as Novo Nordisk, Gregory Pool Equipment company,  Grifols and Northeast Foods. The Dean and Cathy Penny Family Fund and T&T Creative have been a big part of the playgrounds success – providing funding, services and staff time to fundraising efforts.

The Town of Clayton provided the land for the playground and funds for additional amenities such as expanded parking, shelters and bathrooms. The Johnston County Board of Commissioners provided an additional $100,000 to the playground in their 2019-2020 budget. The Town also received a very competitive Connect NC Parks & Recreation Trust Fund grant for $89,810 and a GameTime grant worth $55,000-$60,000 in savings from this playground equipment manufacturer. 

County Commissioner Butch Lawter was a member of the original playground focus group. He said, “Today we celebrate the culmination of an 8-year journey that started with … about 10 people who had a vision where children and adults of all ages and abilities could come and play together.”

Clayton Town Councilman Michael Grannis also has been a supporter of the playground since the beginning planning stages. “I look forward to seeing all children of all needs being able to participate in this park,”

Over the years community organizations have helped push the playground to the finish line including The Woman's Club of ClaytonThe Clayton Civitan Club, Christine Taylor Trust, The Archway Foundation, State FarmJohnston County Association of RealtorsBalfour Beatty, RTP Electrical Associates, LLC, Zaxby's of ClaytonZaxby's of Smithfield, Rotary Club of Clayton,  Hudson's HardwarePremiere FinancialTerraconWalmart and Sam's Club, Sheetz, Inc. Numerous individuals and families also contributed to the fundraising efforts.

Estimates show that about 4,000 children with disabilities live within 20 miles of Harmony Playground could benefit from the playground, which is located at East Clayton Community Park, 1774 Glen Laurel Road, just off of Highway 42 East.

“On behalf of all of our kids…THANK YOU,” said Candice Collier- Lang, a parent of two daughters, one with special needs, who was a member of the initial community focus group that helped kick-start the playground effort. 



The Town of Clayton initiated a public-private partnership with Clayton Community Recreational Foundation, Inc. in 2014.  That non-profit, 501(c)3 organization has been helping the community support family events, parks and other Clayton recreation activities for more than 2 decades. The Mayor & Council dedicated land at the Town's newest and largest park on Glen Laurel Road, East Clayton Community Park. They also hired CLH Design of Cary to draft the concept and cost analysis for this one-of-a-kind, destination playground. 

Jan Craig, the mother of a 6-year-old little girl with special needs, share that she actually got a concussion trying to help her daughter on a playset at a traditional playground. She avoids them now. 

“My daughter barely walked until she was three, so I would be on a playground having to help her  just get to the playground, helping her get up the stairs to a slide that often times would end up being too steep for her even to go down,” said Craig. “None of the children would interact with her, she’s special needs, her mom is helping her with every step. And for me, there’s no interaction with other moms either because I’m very busy helping her.”

For Craig, Harmony Playground would mean there will finally be a place in Clayton that's useable and exciting for all children, no matter what their limitations.

Children of all abilities need to be able to have playtime to enhance their growth and development," said Craig. "This is not always an easy thing to accomplish for children with various disabilities. Soon our children will be gathering in Clayton to play safely in this space designed with everyone's needs in mind."  

Bridgett Bailey, of the MOMS Club of Clayton, says she looks forward to educating the community and children about the importance of inclusion play.

My son interacting with special needs children has helped him understand how to interact with them, and ultimately, I hope, it will lead to him having more compassion for special needs children, as he gets older," said Bailey. "I think this is something all kids should experience."

We hope you’ll want to learn more about how you can help create this joyful place for children to play

For further information on this incredible project by the Clayton Community Recreational Foundation, Inc. please email info@harmonyplayground.org.

Join the Generous Supporters

Thank you to all of the generous sponsors who have helped make this dream a reality!

Title Sponsors 

Caterpillar  Town of Clayton

Dream Sponsors

Johnston County, Dean and Cathy Penny Family Fund Grifols Novo Nordisk Gregory Poole Equipment Company

Mission Sponsors

T&T Creative Group  NE Foods

Contributing Sponsors

NC State University Park Scholars Class of 2019, The Woman's Club of Clayton, The Clayton Civitan Club, Christine Taylor Trust, The Archway Foundation, State Farm, Johnston County Association of Realtors, Balfour Beatty, RTP Electrical Associates, LLC, Zaxby's of Clayton, Zaxby's of Smithfield, Rotary Club of Clayton,  Hudson's Hardware, Premiere Financial, Terracon, Walmart and Sam's Club, Sheetz, Inc. 


Sensory-Active-Passive Play

The playground would incorporate physical activities to build strength, social interaction and communication to make friends, cognitive elements to help develop personalities and sensory elements to delight children through sight, sound and touch. The playground would be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and will incorporate special ramps which would make it easy for adults and children who have difficulty moving around on ground covered with uneven grass, sand, straw or mulch.

“On behalf of all of our kids…THANK YOU,” said Candice Collier- Lang, a parent of two daughters, one with special needs, who was a member of the initial community focus group that helped kick-start the playground effort.  “Thank you to Mayor Pro Tem Michael Grannis, Councilman Butch Lawter and the town council members for supporting the inclusive park and supporting the needs of our kids!”

The playground would be located at East Clayton Community Park, a 60-acre park, on Glen Laurel Road. The park already features many firsts for Clayton, including a regulation-size baseball field, regulation-size soccer field and the Town’s first multi-purpose playing field.  The Universal Playground would sit under a canopy of trees adjacent to convenient parking, an attractive stone pavilion with restrooms, and a beautiful 1-mile walking trail.

"It’s not just that a playground is what most children view as a necessity to make East Clayton Community Park a “real park”, it’s that we are approaching this project with the unique opportunity for everyone to participate," said Parks & Recreation Director Larry Bailey.  "This project will have a major impact on our community by conveying a message that our town cares about all of our citizens."



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