Jo Jo’s Jungle now open for all

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 7:17 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - After a lot of hard work, Jo Jo’s Jungle at Brockmeyer Park in Wausau is now open for kids and families to enjoy.

A grand opening ribbon-cutting event took place Thursday afternoon that included community members and donors.

Jo Jo’s Jungle is an all-inclusive playground designed for children of all ages and abilities, and the idea for it wouldn’t have come up without the inspiration from a young boy named Josiah “Jo Jo” Hoerter.

“This was truly a unique dream from the start,” Jo Jo’s father Patrick Hoerter said. “Wausau itself needed a playground where children with special needs could come and be a part of the rest of the community.”

Hoerter and his wife, Destiny wanted to build the playground for everyone after their son passed away in 2015 at the age of three. Jo Jo was born with the disorder, MECP2 duplication syndrome.

This disorder made it so Jo Jo was not able to walk, talk, or gain any independence.

"From the moment [Jo Jo] passed away, we had made a promise to him and to the community that we would build a playground in his honor and donate it to the city," Hoerter said.

The all-inclusive playground includes special features such as a zipline, a wheelchair accessible splash pad, wheelchair ramps, and swings, among other equipment.

The main surface of the playground is also made of rubber, which makes it easier for children in wheelchairs to get around as opposed to the traditional playground with woodchips and pebbles.

“To have a park that my son and my daughter can go and participate in and with their cousins, their friends, and ride side by side, that is awesome,” Parent Chris Teeters said.

Kids are also excited to go out and use the new equipment, like Kaitlyn Oelke and her siblings.

"It's really exciting that Kallie and Zach can go with me on stuff, even the slide's very fun," Oelke said.

But this project didn't come together by magic, the Hoerters got help from many donors and input on design ideas. The City of Wausau believes this playground was a needed asset.

“It’s something that we wanted to come to fruition as well as be done correctly so we helped him along with the construction process as we do any park,” City of Wausau Parks and Recreation Director Jamie Polley said.

In 2021, the city hopes to have the splash pad open, once it is safe for everyone after COVID-19, but for now, the park is open for everyone to enjoy.

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