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Examiner
  • Inclusive play

  • The 2012 Major League All-Star Game is likely a faint memory, a thing of the past, in many peoples’ minds.


    But for one group of Kansas City area children, including many in Independence, that event last July served as another piece of the puzzle to making their dreams come true.

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  • The 2012 Major League All-Star Game is likely a faint memory, a thing of the past, in many peoples’ minds.
    But for one group of Kansas City area children, including many in Independence, that event last July served as another piece of the puzzle to making their dreams come true.
    The Kansas City Royals and Royals Charities announced Thursday morning at Kauffman Stadium a partnership that will take place to build two adaptive baseball fields in Independence and in Olathe, Kan.
    The projects are possible, in part, because of proceeds from the 2012 Major League Baseball Gatorade All-Star Workout Day. Construction is set to begin this spring, with a tentative completion date this fall.
    Independence’s portion, called the McCoy Park Inclusive Play Project, includes partnerships with Unlimited Play, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building inclusive playgrounds accessible to all children; Vireo, a landscape architecture and community planning firm that donated its services to the McCoy Park project; Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation; and Variety the Children’s Charity of Greater Kansas City.
    “Our mission is to truly create places where limitations are forgotten and where differences are celebrated,” said Natalie Blakemore, Unlimited Play’s executive director and founder.
    The children also heard a real-life inspirational story from someone who’s been there herself. Born with fibular hemimelia, Jessica Long had both of legs amputated below the knees when she was 18 months old. Long, 21, has won 12 gold medals as a swimmer in the Paralympics.
    “My whole life, I’ve never wanted to be held back because of my legs or my disability. In my eyes, it’s not a disability – it’s an ability to inspire others and to do great things,” Long said. “...It’s really cool to win gold medals, but it’s even better to be a role model for kids like this and to share my story and to let them know that you guys can do anything you set your mind to.”
    The McCoy Park Inclusive Play Project will include a large-scale inclusive playground, with separate areas for children ages 2 to 5 and for those ages 5 to 12.
    Ball field renovations will make it an inclusive baseball/softball small multipurpose ability field, with improved parking accessibility. Other features include larger dugouts to accommodate mobility devices and extra players; rubberized surfacing; and bases that are flush with the playing surface to allow for easier mobility.
    Fundraising efforts for the playground and ball field are ongoing, and community members can visit www.McCoyPark.com for more information. The city also received a $25,000 grant last spring in the State Farm Insurance company’s Cause An Effect competition.
    Original plans had called for the children to visit The Little K at Kauffman Stadium following Thursday’s announcement, but leftover snow and ice caused Royals officials to come up with a different plan.
    Page 2 of 2 - So, the Royals decked out their visitors’ locker room, designating a locker for every child and allowing the children the intermingle with the Royals alumni, including Jaime Bluma, Tom Burgmeier, Al Fitzmorris, Steve Jeltz, Dennis Leonard, Jeff Montgomery, Rod Myers, Joe Randa, Shawn Sedlacek and Jerry Terrell.
    Daniel Oakes of Independence even got to try on Terrell’s 1980 American League championship ring.
    Daniel, a fifth grader at Fire Prairie Middle School, has cerebral palsy and uses a walker. Coincidentally, Daniel’s father, Danny, works for Independence Parks and Recreation in grounds maintenance.
    “It’s actually pretty neat that this really gets to happen,” Daniel said.
    Like most 11-year-old boys, Daniel said he enjoys swinging and “running around” at school. He also participated in the Exceptionals, a softball program in Blue Springs for children with special needs.
    “But, they play on a dirt field,” said Angie Oakes, Daniel’s mother. “If it’s a little muddy, you have to decide whether or not you want to take your equipment out there because the wheels get stuck, and it can mess up the mechanical parts.”
    For Angie Oakes, seeing the smiles on children’s faces served as the best part of Thursday’s announcement.
    “You see joy,” she said. “These families are fighting insurance or this and that, and they get to take just a few minutes out and to have something like this come to us is amazing.”
     
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