Students step up to make playground inclusive for those with disabilities

▶ Watch Video: Students raise funds to make playground inclusive for those with disabilities

Hopkins, Minnesota — At Glen Lake Elementary School, recess is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, there’s so much to do. But on the other hand, not everyone can do it.

Glen Lake has a lot of students with physical disabilities, but no wheelchair merry-go-round, swings or any adaptive playground equipment, which really bothered the kids in Betsy Julien’s fifth grade class. 

“It just didn’t seem fair that some kids were just left out,” Wyatt Feucht said. 

“And it’s really sad to see other kids go through that,” Me’Ayila Priere said. 

“They didn’t look happy, and recess is about having fun,” Rhys Riley added. 

So one day the students asked Julien why they couldn’t just buy the equipment themselves. 

“I said, ‘Do you know how much that costs?! It costs a lot of money,'” Julien said: About $300,000, by her estimation. 

The students were undeterred. They started collecting spare change, then held a bake sale, printed flyers and went door to door. Then they began cold-calling businesses and even got restaurants to donate a portion of their profits. This went on for months — until last week, when they finally hit their goal, with support from the Glen Lake Parent Teacher Organization

Riley says it was overwhelming to know that their hard work finally led to a more inclusive playground. As for the kids who’ll benefit, they seemed to appreciate the effort almost more than the result.

“First time I set foot on this playground I’m probably going to start crying from seeing the effort that all the school has made,” said John Buettner, who is in a wheelchair. 

Julien couldn’t agree more. 

“My future as an adult is bright knowing that this generation of students, of changemakers, sees something that needs fixing, and they go for it headfirst,” she said. 

After raising $300,000, her class set a new goal. They now hope to buy adaptive playground equipment for other schools in the district. 

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