The latest addition to the Lion Cub Academy playground was unveiled this fall.

The OmniSpin Spinner is a merry-go-round that is wheelchair and walker accessible. Nikki Tappana, the center’s director, says it is designed for vestibular stimulation – how the inner ear and brain communicate to maintain balance.

“The OmniSpin can help better improve children’s motor skills,” she says. “It’s not just for normally developing children, but also children with delayed development.”

Last year, Leadership Joplin kicked off a fundraising effort to purchase the new equipment after taking a tour of the Lion Cub Academy. Cody Chaffin, a member of the 2018 Leadership Joplin class, says it was project that “tugs at my heartstrings.”

“The main focus of this effort was to close the gap between kids across all different ability levels,” he says. “The goal comes from the belief that all kids deserve the opportunity to have fun, to be engaged, to learn and be educated.”

Other donors, including the Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and Anne Sharp, also helped to meet the $15,000 fundraising goal.

In 2017, the former Child Development Center moved to its new home across Newman Road, where it shares space with the Joplin Regional Center. It serves children ages 1 to 5, including children of students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as the community.