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All are welcome to play at Owatonna's new inclusive playground

The newly opened inclusive playground in Owatonna features squishy floors and accessible equipment for all abilities.

OWATONNA, Minn — All are welcome at a playground -- but not all playgrounds are created equal.

"In other playgrounds you had to be right there next to him holding him at all times, walking him to and from," Stacey Rosenberg said.

She said it was very difficult to be by her son Gavin's side at all times at a park or a playground, so they stuck to hanging out in the backyard most days.

"Gavin has cerebral palsy so his mobility is off, so with the helmet he does take in tumble quite a bit," Rosenberg said. "But with the terrain that we have here, there's no chance of him getting hurt, as you would on a cement or a wood chip playground."

The newly opened inclusive playground in Owatonna features squishy floors (like, really squishy) and accessible equipment for all abilities. It's been a boon for families like the Rosenbergs. It lets kids be kids. Well, adults be kids too.

"Grandparents can be here with their grandkids, playing, you can have adults with special needs here playing -- anybody can be here," Rosenberg added.

That side-by-side play was what drew Katelyn Ryshavi, her mother and her niece and nephew to Manthey Park.

"It's just so different than any other playground, and any child would have fun playing out here," Katelyn's mother Cheryl Ryshavi said.

Ryshavi added that the biggest treat of all was the fact that Katelyn could participate in a softball league that takes place right next door to the playground on a specialized field featuring the same type of squishy flooring. Miracle Field was the true embodiment of inclusion, according to Ryshavi.

"Our kids are just like any other kids, they are no different than any other kids," Ryshavi said. "They have feelings, they love to play, they love, they love sports, [to] play as a team member, and a lot of times, other leagues and things they can join, but they're kind of left out. So that's why it's good to have something like this for our kids."

Tim Truelson, one of the committee members for We All Play, the organization that was the brains behind the Inclusive Playground, said when they were going around town pitching the idea, it was warmly received by all.

"The community was thrilled, we never had nothing like this. Owatonna and surrounding communities from this will benefit as well," Truelson said. "We really wanted to bring out community together, and that's what this is gonna do by the completion of this project."

Because in Owatonna, they really mean it when they say come one, come all -- to play.

"It's amazing to see a smile on his face, lighting up," Rosenberg said. "It's heartbreaking to know that at one point he wasn't able to do that like everyone else was, and now it's not an obstacle anymore."

Truelson said the $1.1 million project was funded by grants and donations.


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