Tyson Martin had a 16-year countdown to his first swing - but there was no delaying his grin at lift-off today.
The Batemans Bay High School student was the first official pilot of the long-awaited Liberty Swing when it was launched on Monday morning at Corrigans Reserve, Batehaven.
Did he love it?
“Yes I did, because I can have a swing like a normal person,” he said.
“I have never been on one before.”
Tyson, a year 10 student, said his initial nerves quickly settled.
“At first I was (nervous), but then, no,” he said.
He said he felt safe and comfortable.
“It felt normal,” he said.
Used to observing from his wheelchair at playgrounds, rather than participating, Tyson said he hoped more inclusive equipment would be installed at the park.
An appreciative crowd gathered at 10am to applaud the efforts of fundraisers Charles Stuart and Geoff Fielding, who raised $20,000 for the swing in a year.
“Please gather around – I want you to see the smiles,” Mr Stuart urged the crowd as Tyson readied for lift-off.
Batemans Bay High School teacher Guy Smith was also delighted with the reaction of Year eight student Natalie Bertosa, who sang throughout her ride.
“It is fantastic and we need more of this,” Mr Smith said.
“The sounds we are hearing from Natalie are just great.”
Tomakin newcomer Steven Thomas’s first day at Batemans Bay High School got off to a swinging start.
His father, Steven Thomas senior, said the 14-year-old had used a Liberty Swing on the Central Coast and he was pleased to see one installed at Batehaven.
“We will definitely use it,” he said.
“It was easy to use, it was safe and he loved it.
“He almost went to sleep, so it must be relaxing.”
Mr Stuart said the swing was just the beginning of a campaign for fundraising group, The Bay Push.
“We want to see an all-inclusive playground at Corrigans of such magnitude that it becomes a holiday attraction, particularly for people from Canberra,” he said.
Mr Stuart said Flight Centre had agreed to donate one per cent of payments from holiday bookings if customers mentioned The Bay Push.
Eurobodalla Shire Council Deputy Mayor Rob Pollock officially launched the swing.
“There is no better example of what a community can do together,” he said.
“I look forward to your (Mr Stuart’s) continued harassment over the next 12 months and to the expansion we will see on this site,” he told the crowd.
The swing won the approval of Batemans Bay Public School principal Tom Purcell, Batemans Bay High School principal Neil Simpson.
Teacher Angie O’Connor said a simple comment to Mr Stuart 12 months ago had resulted in a successful campaign.
“All I said was a Liberty Swing would be good,” she said.
“He took it and ran with it.”
Teacher Keryl Davie said the swing “opened up the world”.
“To play, which we take for granted, our kids now have access to,” she said.
Parent Sally Minato said her fears that the Eurobodalla would not be an ideal home for children with disabilities, including her toddler Frankie, were shifting.
“To see people like Charles creating playgrounds and not stopping at the swing – it gives me chills to think of what we are going to be able to do for these kids,” she said.
Eurobodalla Shire Councillors Liz Innes and Danielle Brice attended, with general manger Catherine Dale and infrastructure services director Warren Sharpe.
Cr Brice chairs the council’s disability advisory committee and said she hoped the shire would become a disability-friendly tourist destination.