An 11-year-old’s letter to the mayor of Kearney has sparked the creation of a day devoted to children of all abilities.
Set for Saturday, “Paint the Park” will feature activities for all children, including those who are disabled, said Kearney Mayor Bill Dane.
The free event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Lions Park, 106 S. Jefferson St. The day will include a parade led by the fire department followed by children in wheelchairs, bikes, walking or being carried. In addition, there will be live music by Dino O’Dell, a popular Kansas City children’s musician.
“We’ll paint the streets yellow, have games, inflatables, a balloon release, entertainment, a magician, food, face painting and more,” Dane said. “The outpouring of support from the community has been staggering.”
Dane was inspired to create the event by a letter from Mihaley Schlegel, an 11-year-old fourth grader who has a disorder that has caused her to break nearly 100 bones and undergo more than 20 surgeries.
Called osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, the disorder has made life difficult for Mihaley, a student at Dogwood Elementary in Kearney. She broke her leg the day before Christmas. After undergoing surgery, she was in a wheelchair for several months.
Recently, Mihaley wrote a letter to Dane asking to have May 6 designated as osteogenesis imperfecta day. That’s the date that the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation marks Wishbone Day to raise awareness about the condition. On that day, people are asked to wear yellow in recognition of the 20,000 to 50,000 people that the foundation estimates have the disorder.
Dane agreed and asked Mihaley to read a resolution at the May 5 Kearney City Council meeting. He also decided to create a day in honor of all children in the area with disabilities.
“I was really inspired by Mihaley’s letter,” he said. “It was beautifully written. I realized from what she said that kids with disabilities want to be treated like all kids and just have fun.”
Dane recruited 40 volunteers to help plan the event. Businesses, civic groups, hospitals, churches and individuals have donated $2,300 to support the event, he said. “We haven’t asked for any money, but the donations keep pouring in,” he said. It’s just amazing.”
The day is scheduled to begin with a parade and children in costumes will travel to Lion’s Park. They will find the park decorated in banners featuring the colors of numerous childhood disorders, he said.
“We plan to make this an annual event,” Dane said. “We’re grateful to Mihaley for helping us recognize that we need to recognize and support children with disabilities.”
Mihaley, one of seven children, has been nicknamed “Mismiley” because she is always smiling, said her mother, Michelle Schlegel. “Although there are many things she can’t do, there are things she excels at and we focus on that,” she said.
Her 15-year-old brother, Dawson, has a milder case of osteogenesis imperfecta, and has broken six bones, Schlegel said. Her younger sister, Macie, 9, is being tested for the disorder.
“Some of the other symptoms of the disorder include short stature, brittle teeth, hearing loss and muscle weakness,” she said. “Mihaley is very small — about the size of a kindergartner. She excels in singing and loves to sing. She also is a great actress. She has entered several talent shows and would like to do commercials.”
Mihaley designed T-shirts that say “O.I. crack myself up” and is selling them on Facebook to help offset her medical costs, which included three surgeries last year. The shirts can be found on the Head 2 Toe Creations Facebook page atwww.facebook.com/h2tcreations.