WAUPACA, Wis. - The Waupaca Learning Center has made it into the top five schools competing for a Culturelle Kids Project Playground grant. Now, they're asking for your vote to win the nationwide competition.
During recess at the public elementary school, you'll see children climbing, sliding and swinging, but for third grader Adam Nehring, who has cerebral palsy, getting around the playground can be a struggle.
"Some of it is pretty hard," said Nehring.
10% of students at the school have special needs or physical limitations.
"Inside the building, we are an inclusion school, so they're in the regular ed classrooms with all of our students and we consider them to be our students. Well, when we go to the playground, we'd like to have that same feeling," explained Principal John Erspamer.
"The nearest ADA playground is actually in Stevens Point. So for our families that have special needs children, they have to drive over a half an hour to have a playground that their students can play at, and to have that here would make a huge difference for those families," said Parent Teacher Group President Liz Kneer.
When Kneer heard about an online contest by probiotics company Culturelle, she applied for the chance to win a $100,000 grant to build an all-inclusive playground at the school.
"They're smaller in size, so they're lower to the ground," explained Erspamer. "It would have a ramp for wheelchair accesiblity."
It would also have a rubber surface instead of wood chips that can lead to wheelchairs getting stuck.
"If they can access the equipment like the other children can, it builds their confidence. It helps with peer interactions, so the other children see that they have abilities instead of disabilities," said Waupaca School District Physical Therapist Kathy Jensen. "It helps as far as keeping them strong physically and emotionally."
Kneer said, "Wisconsinites are people that help each other and that's what we need right now."
If the school wins, the Parent Teacher Group will contribute an additional $30,000 to the project. They plan to hold a community style build to have the playground ready for students to use by next school year.
"To see the look on their face when they get so excited to know that they would be able to play just like any other child is priceless, and to me that's what it's all about."