Monday, August 15, 2011

A Playground for All

Water bottle? Check. Snack? Check. Tweezers? Double check. 

For six years, this has been my mental checklist when I've taken my kids to play at the Cornelia School playground. I have wheedled, needled and coaxed so many slivers from my kids' fingertips, elbows and knees that I think I have earned some kind of honorary surgical assistant degree. I am thankful to say, however, that my nightmares of needing magnifying reading glasses prematurely are at an end, and a new day has dawned for our beloved but dilapidated recreational area. 

When news of a new playground circulated throughout the school, I marched myself right up to the Principal, Chris Holden, and said “I’m putting down my tweezers and picking up my sledgehammer! Where do I sign?”

The process was a little more daunting than I had originally hoped. There was little to no money for this task, which meant that we needed to do some serious fundraising. If anyone knows me, they know that my talent does not lie in this area. Give me a paint brush or a party to throw and I’m a workhorse, but tell me to ask for money and I’m useless. Mercifully, I was not expected to be the muscle in this arena, as we had already secured a lot of necessary capital through PTO allocations, a sizeable grant from The Edina Education Fund, and some wonderful private family donations. Additional donations from all over the community came in, from generous sponsors, engraved brick sales, lemonade stands, and even a birthday party where two students raised over $600 in lieu of gifts. 

During the design process, I learned another disturbing fact about our old playground: a large percentage of our special needs students couldn’t even access the structure because of the surrounding pea gravel. Wheelchairs and other mobility aids were unable to navigate through this slippery mass of rocks. And I was annoyed from constantly having to empty shoes and pockets!

One rainy Saturday in June, a crew of highly-motivated community members, along with experienced construction experts, rallied to tear down the old playground to make way for a beautiful new  structure (watch some video here). The new design is more inclusive and has accessible areas for students with physical disabilities. It is surrounded by special woodchips designed to interlock into a flat surface for wheelchair accessibility. The structure includes a Sway Fun, a Spacenet climber, a roller table and so much more.

Our Grand Opening celebration will be held on Wednesday, August 17th from 5-7pm, and will include special performances by the Edina High School cheerleaders as well as The Bleacher Blasters, so pack a picnic dinner and come on over to cheer on this amazing community collaboration! I am really looking forward to spending a glorious evening surrounded by wonderful friends and, for once, leaving my tweezers at home.

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