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Fort Wayne Children's Zoo gets new wheelchair ramp for train

Rides are some of the most common features at zoos besides the animals, but some children have had to pass them up. Now the zoo is making one little girl's visit a more enjoyable one in spite of her disabilities.

Posted: May 22, 2018 7:10 PM
Updated: May 23, 2018 2:35 PM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT)- Fort Wayne's Children's Zoo is one of many places the whole family can visit and have fun, but one of it's most popular features the Z.O&O Railroad was missing something. It's something 8 year-old Layla and her family needed.

"Last year, we brought her to ride on the train, and we had to wait in the line holding her,"Layla's father Michael Blanton said.

The train was missing a wheelchair ramp.

"She's getting bigger, so just being able to hold her becomes a little bit tiresome,"he said.

This year Layla returned with her family. Joining her this time were representatives of the AWS Foundation.

Both the AWS Foundation and the M.E.  Raker Foundation organizations contributed for the new wheelchair ramp making the ride accessible for Layla and other children who are not able to walk.

"It kinda makes you get a little tear in your eye. I try to hold that stuff back, but you see it's so great to be able to give her an enjoyable experience,"he added.

"We were so excited to unveil our accessible train car for our Z.O&O Railroad. Rides are an important part of the zoo experience and we are just thrilled for the first time in 53 years that families like the Blanton's can ride together as a family," zoo director of development Amy Lazoff said.

After 53 years it took a passionate staff to make the change.

"The staff saw the need. The staff saw families come through and take turns, or as Mike said cradle a child in their arms rather than the safety of the wheelchair,"CEO of AWS Foundation Patti Hays said.

The M.E. Raker Foundation donated $28,800 to the effort.

The AWS Foundation donated $25,000.

Hays said she's hoping to put out another $25,000 because accommodating one wheelchair isn't enough.

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