Minnesota students ‘wouldn’t take no for an answer’ for accessible playground

Posted at 11:39 AM, Jan 25, 2023

Students from a Minnesota elementary school were bullish about ensuring their fellow classmates with disabilities had accessible playground equipment, according to school Principal Jeff Radel.

In recent months, Glen Lake Elementary School students in Minnetonka, Minnesota, have used whatever means possible to fundraise for their school to build an accessible playground.

Donations big and small have piled up as the students have raised over $500,000, well enough to meet their original goal, but they have loftier goals in mind. They now have set $700,000 as their goal to make the playground fully accessible. They also hope to fund equipment at neighboring schools.

Radel said students have made cold calls to local businesses, used artwork to draw attention to the project, and been advocates for their fellow students. But their largest donation came from an anonymous donor who contributed $200,000 after learning about the project in the local news.

“Our students, they want all of our kids to have fun,” Radel said. “They saw the need there. We had a very bare minimum piece of equipment that was outdated that wasn’t what kids truly they needed. They saw students in wheelchairs that aren’t able to communicate for themselves, are nonverbal, they stepped in their shoes and could see what they want.”

Radel said he had a “lot of pride” watching his students spearhead this project.

“Our students, for them to think of this idea originally and for them to stand in this puzzle has been remarkable,” Radel said. “They have used their own skillsets and asked, ‘What can I contribute to this cause.’”

Radel said when students learned that accessible playgrounds can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said students “wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“They are jumping on it and to keep it moving,” Radel said.

While eight current students of the school would benefit from an accessible playground, Radel said the broader community will benefit. He said the closest playground is at least a 35-minute drive from the school. He said the playground would be open to the community outside school hours.

“This is going to benefit children within an hour from us,” Radel said.

Radel said Phase 1 of the new playground is expected to begin this summer.

Donations can be made to the project online.