Tobey Elementary Students Raising $20,000 to Build Inclusive Playground for Classmate

When a group of fifth graders at Tobey Elementary in Vicksburg, Michigan, noticed kindergartener Hannah Cook playing by herself in a sandbox, something didn’t sit right with them. They wanted to know why Cook, a 5-year-old with cerebral palsy, was alone with her aid and not with the other kindergarteners on the playground.

The answer: Tobey Elementary’s playground isn’t accessible, and Cook – who uses leg braces and a walker – can’t safely play on it. Now, students at Tobey Elementary are raising $20,000 to build an inclusive playground.

“I see her playing there,” Carcel Tharge, a fifth-grader at the school, told Fox17 News. “I go over and run to my friends and I’m like well is the school going to do anything? I’m pretty sure they are.”

Designing inclusive playgrounds that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) standards for accessible design are expensive and not often included in school budgets – as is the case at Tobey Elementary. The ADA does not require playgrounds to be fully inclusive to all abilities; it only requires playgrounds to provide wheelchair access to the play area.

Students approached school principal Mike Barwegen and asked what they could do to make inclusive play a reality. Barwegen helped set up a GoFundMe page to raise the $20,ooo needed to build a new playground. So far the students have raised almost $16,000.

The students hope to reach their goal soon so the playground is ready for Cook – who left mid-September to have surgery on her legs – when she returns in mid-November.

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