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New All-Inclusive Playground In Bonner Springs Provides Valuable Space For Kids With, And Without, Disabilities

Laura Ziegler
KCUR 89.3
Marissa and her mother, Dawn Graczyk, came to the ribbon-cutting for the 'Field of Dreams' baseball-themed park built to be accessible to everyone.

Marissa Graczyk's family is from the tiny town of Centerview in Johnson County, Missouri, where there are no parks or playgrounds for kids with disabilities. She and her brother have an illness that requires them to use wheelchairs. The first all-inclusive playground in Wyandotte County allows all six siblings to play together.

Marissa Graczyk and her mother, Dawn, were sitting under a shade tree not long after the ribbon cutting for the new playground.

Marissa, 16, has Friedreich’s Ataxia, a heredity neuro-degenerative disease which attacks her muscles and eventually her organs.

“I can walk, but not very well,” she says.

Her mother says they didn’t know they had the gene in their family until they had six children.

Marissa's nine-year-old brother, Josiah, also has Friedreich’s Ataxia.

Graczyk explains, “He’s in between a wheelchair and walking right now, so it will be nice for him to have a safe place to run around, too.”

Earlier Friday, Marissa and her mother were able to wheel Marissa’s chair onto the special, shock-absorbing surface for photographs with officials.

The swings meet requirements set out by the Americans With Disabilities Act. The wider spacing between pieces of equipment and the wider routes for wheelchairs will allow Marissa to play here with her younger siblings.

“She has fun chasing the three-year-old and five-year-old around and watching them cause trouble,” Graczyk says.

The Graczyk family lives in Centerview, Missouri, a village about 50 miles from Kansas City, Missouri. Graczyk says she appreciates the opportunity all-inclusive parks provide, especially with two children who have Friedreich's Ataxia.

“It's life-shortening and right now there’s no treatment or cure, so it means a lot to be able to get out and do things as a family," she adds.

Laura Ziegler
The new playground is in Wyandotte County Park near Bonner Springs . It includes multi-sensory play pieces, slides and chimes. It provides parents who are in wheelchairs the ability to play with children on the playground.

The idea for the park

The former director of the Parks Department for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County-Kansas City, Kansas, Jeremy Rogers, started working five years ago with former Commissioner Hal Walker on the vision to establish a playground where children with disabilities would play with everyone else, according to a release from the Unified Government.

“Play is a critical part of physical, emotional, mental, and social development for every child, especially for children with disabilities,” said Angel Obert, Unified Government Parks and Recreation Deputy Director. “This playground is special for our community ... (allowing) kids with disabilities to swing, slide and climb with their friends."

Obert said the total cost of the project was roughly $432,000.

At the entrance to the park is an arch identifying it as a Variety KC playground. Variety Children's Charity of Greater Kansas City is an organization that has provided adaptive equipment and technology to children with disabilities for almost a century. It was a primary partner in establishing the park with the Unified Government.

Obert said there were a number of other agencies that supported it as well.

“This is something all families in our community can enjoy for many years to come, “ she said.

Earlier this week, the Kansas City Council passed a resolution that will make playgrounds and parks accessible beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The resolution passed in honor of the work of Variety KC.

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