Over 500 volunteers converged on a Salina elementary school Saturday morning to do their part in helping build a one-of-a-kind playground.
Organizers of the event tell KSAL news that they are “overwhelmed” by the response from the community.
This 10,800 square foot playground is totally handicapped accessible, and is the only one between Mexico and Canada that features a ramping system to allow children with all abilities to access 5 slide locations and multiple sensory stations for creative play from zero to 10 feet in the air. Their peers and caregivers will have opportunities for safe interactive play. The entire system is installed on a turf material that is conducive to wheelchairs, walkers and kids running. When it is complete, 600 children can utilize the playground all at the same time.
The playgound is a project of the Salina AMBUC’s organization. Members Cee Heller and Lori Blake have been the driving force behind it. They first got the idea back in June of last year. In November they became serious and started fund raising.
Heller says that what is most overwhelming is the financial support they have received. They have raised about $400,000. All of the money has come from local foundations and individuals. AMBUCs members themselves have donated over $50,000. Heller says that they applied for several regional and national grants, but were not approved for any of them. The organization is still about $50,000 away from fully funding the project. They are in the process of reaching out to local businsesses.
The project culminated on Saturday, with everything but the turf being installed. It will be installed in a couple of weeks.
Among the volunteers were AMBUC members from as far away as Oklahoma. They were joined by church organizations, families from Coronado school, Boy Scouts, and other community members. Brown Mackie College also sent a group of volunteers.
Football players from Bethany College and Salina South High School were among those providing muscle. South football coach Sam Seller brought 15 of his players. The cougars were mixing and hauling concrete.
Blake says that the project would not have been possible without the outpouring of volunteers and financial support from the community.
The goal was to have the playground ready by the time school starts in August. Blake and Heller were both pleased to say that it looks like they will achieve that goal.
In addition to the playground, the project has been approved for a grant from the Sunflower Health Foundation to resurface a ¼ mile walking trail, with activity stations. USD 305 has committed to additional upgrades to the current facility including relocating the ball field, doubling the parking lot, new benches and fencing for the facility after project has been completed.
Funding for the playground is still about $50,000 short. To leave a legacy for all children in Salina, checks can be written and mailed to 1648 S. Ohio, PMB 192, Salina KS 67401. AMBUCS is a 501(c) 3, so all gifts are tax deductible.
The playground is a gift to the community, and during hours when school is not in session, is open to everyone.