"I feel loved": Anonymous donor gives $200K towards metro school's quest for accessible playground
HOPKINS, Minn. – It's the kind of update we love to share. A dream -- a really expensive dream -- is coming true.
In December, we told you about the push for a more accessible playground at Glen Lake Elementary in Hopkins. The kids who don't use wheelchairs stepped up to try to raise $300,000.
It wasn't what anyone expected. The lunchroom had become a ballroom, with Principal Jeff Radel acting as the emcee. But you have to back up to understand the levity of the moment.
There are eight kids at Glen Lake who use wheelchairs. As it is, they can't play on the playground. So the kids who don't use wheelchairs took on that challenge as their mission, cold calling and door knocking to try and pay for the pricey equipment.
"You give the other people the opportunity to have fun, which feels really good," said fifth grader Wyatt Feucht.
MORE: Big donation brings Twin Cities school closer to an accessible playground
Back to that disco party. Ms. Julien got a call that prompted this surprise celebration.
"Somebody had seen our news story and they were living in Minnesota and they reached out to their financial advisor," said teacher and project organizer Betsy Julien.
"We found recently there's been an anonymous donor. An individual who lives in Minnesota who also has accessibility challenges wanted to help out in a gigantic way," Radel said. "We have a donation of $200,000!"
They were all excited, but fifth grader John Buettner – who uses a wheelchair – was stunned.
"I felt emotionally melted. I don't have any words for what I was feeling at that very moment," Buettner said. "When I heard those words, I, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret here. I almost started crying. Like, I teared up. And hearing those words come from the principal of the school really tells me that this is going to happen."
"To be able to see how much love and how loved they feel that other people are fighting that for them to be able to have that equal playground is just pretty darn special," Julien said.
With this donation, they have met round one, meaning they are going ahead and putting in the order for the merry-go-round and accessible swing. It's a feature, and experience, that John and his best friend Shujaa Kutto plan to share.
"I am excited for the wheelchair friends to be able to just have fun on a playground because they haven't been able, they've just had to sit out and just watch, and just watch the fun happen," Kutto said.
But not anymore, thanks to some kids who realized everyone benefits from fair play.
"I feel loved, in a sense that I know that I'm going to have fun for the rest of my days in this school now that this is possible," Buettner said.
The kids are having so much success, they are planning to expand the playground beyond the swing, and keep fundraising to build a full playground, which can cost up to a million dollars.
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