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Editorial: Picture all kids playing together

Look out the window at the frozen tundra and then imagine children laughing and playing in a sun-drenched playground. The image warms the heart.

Fast forward six months. Imagine a child looking longingly out that window. The weather isn't the barrier, the playground equipment is.

Unfortunately, Red Wing lacks a handicapped-accessible playground - one that is open to every child in this community.

Two mothers have committed to changing that. We encourage the community to support them.

Ideally, every playground should be open and accessible to all children. In reality, the cost is too great both in terms of equipment and land.

That doesn't excuse a community as rich in resources as Red Wing is from having an accessible park or two. The city has 31 recreation areas, and at least one should have equipment open to children with disabilities requiring the use of wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, etc.

One such playground is a good place to start. Eventually, the community can add more individually accessible pieces -- such as special swings or play ramps -- to select other parks.

Audra Quandt and Heather Marx each have a child with cerebral palsy. The mothers plan to raise $300,000 to $500,000 for a comprehensive play system that any child can enjoy. Red Wing Public Works has committed $30,000 from the park fund, and we expect City Council members will see fit to increase that.

Since Friday's Page 1 story announcing the project, the Hedin Foundation and Anderson Center have offered a matching grant of up to $25,000. That gives the project excellent public support and exposure, said Meg Walch, executive director the United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce Counties is handling collections. That also means people young and old can effectively double a donation -- be it a dollar, a hundred or one thousand -- by giving now.

People can write checks to Universal Playground Project and mail them to the United Way, Box 319, Red Wing, MN 55066.

"Anytime you can be involved in a project that is going to provide for the entire community, inclusive of kids who right now have no other resources, that's exciting, " Walch said.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of an accessible playground is the atmosphere of acceptance it creates. The equipment allows children of all abilities to play together. When kids learn to look beyond physical and mental differences, they grow into adults who look beneath the surface.

So look out your frost-covered window. Picture Red Wing with a new playground. Then help make it happen.