Carly’s Clubhouse hits the ground running

Dustin Chandler, far right, worked to raise awareness and generate support for Carly's Clubhouse during a Motley Crue concert at Oak Mountain Amphitheater on Aug. 15. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

Dustin Chandler, far right, worked to raise awareness and generate support for Carly’s Clubhouse during a Motley Crue concert at Oak Mountain Amphitheater on Aug. 15. (Reporter Photo / Molly Davidson)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—Amid crowds of Motley Crue t-shirt adorned fans, visitors to the Oak Mountain Amphitheater on Aug. 15 may have noticed a white tent and pale blue sign that read “Carly’s Clubhouse” in pink writing.

“This is grassroots right here,” Pelham Police Officer Dustin Chandler said as he handed out information and chatted with passers-by about the Carly’s Clubhouse project.

Known for his work with Carly’s Law and the International Foundation for CDKL5 Research, Chandler has been working on a new project, Carly’s Clubhouse. An all-inclusive playground, it will be the first of it’s kind in Shelby County. The playground will be specially constructed to allow both special needs and “typical” children to play together equally.

Since the Pelham City Council voiced support for the project during a July 7 work session, Chandler has been working to put together a team and promote the project.

“We’re not asking for money, we’re just bringing awareness,” Chandler explained. “We’re trying to get ahead of the fundraising, trying to get people used to the name, know what it’s about.”

“We’re trying to get the name out there,” Kelly Windham, Pelham PTO member and head of fundraising for Carly’s Clubhouse said. “We plan to really kick off fundraising after the design day (for the playground) so we have a blueprint to show people.”

Even though fundraising hasn’t officially begun, Windham and Chandler said they have raised more than $20,000 in pledges.

“For the most part, when you stop someone and start talking to them and explaining what (Carly’s Clubhouse) is going to be, they’re really enthusiastic,” Windham said.

However, Carly’s Clubhouse is more than just a playground, Chandler and Windham explained. The project aims to overcome stereotypes and break down walls between the special needs and typical community.

“We’re trying to break down those walls,” Windham said. “I love it because when you have those kids playing side by side, questions come up at the dinner table, (they) realize their normal is not someone else’s normal.”

“This is going to be a great project, it’s something for everyone to be proud of,” Chandler said. “We want Pelham to carry the flag for the special needs community, to give them a place to play.”

For more information about Carly’s Clubhouse, or to get involved, visit the Carly’s Clubhouse Facebook page or email Chandler at Dustinchandler174@gmail.com.