The afterglow of the Kansas City Royals’ World Series victory washed over a crowd of more than 300 who gathered Friday morning on a special baseball diamond built to be accessible to handicapped children.
They came to the Miracle League field in Olathe at the behest of Variety Children’s Charity of Greater Kansas City to witness a donation from Royals Charities to expand the play area by creating an adjacent playground. Like the ball field, the playground will be fully accessible to kids in wheelchairs.
Once the rest of the money is raised to build it, the playground will be one of a handful in the area that kids in wheelchairs can easily and fully use.
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Royals broadcaster Steve Physioc was one of the speakers at Friday’s ceremony, and he drew a connection between the success of the Royals and the $60,000 donation for the playground pledged by Royals Charities to Variety.
“When you look back on those World Series moments like Wade Davis throwing the last strike and Alex Gordon homering and Eric Hosmer sliding across home plate, those moments contribute to these moments like today,” Physioc said.
The donation ceremony capped off a “Week of Giving Back to Kansas City” by Royals Charities and the Glass family that owns the club. A number of former Royals players attended, as did the team mascot, Sluggerrr, and Santa Claus.
Variety beneficiary and volunteer Katie Ireland, whose 2-year-old daughter, Charlotte, was just diagnosed with a form of Cerebral Palsy, also spoke.
Ireland said Charlotte deserved a place to play, like any other child, despite her medical condition.
“A playground is a great place of learning and being with friends and just being a kid,” Ireland said. “When we learned we had a special-needs child, we wanted a playground she could feel comfortable playing at.”
Natalie Blackmore, founder and executive director of St. Louis-based Unlimited Play, a non-profit organization dedicated to making accessible playgrounds available, attended the ceremony. She has been consulting with Variety on the design of the baseball-themed playground.
She said the Americans with Disabilities Act rules that require playgrounds to be accessible to children with handicaps don’t really cut it for children in wheelchairs.
“ADA says a transfer station is accessible,” Blackmore said. “That means you can take a kid out of his wheelchair, and then he can crawl up the stairs. In a truly accessible playground, they can stay in their chairs and get to the top of the structure.”
Blackmore worked with Variety to build a fully accessible playground in Independence. There are a couple of other partially accessible playgrounds in the area, and Variety is raising funds for one in Platte County, as well as the one in Johnson County.
Variety executive director Deborah Wiebrecht said she needed to raise about $100,000 more for the Olathe playground. Thus, there is no specific time fame for its opening.
The Miracle League field was built by a separate charity two years ago.