Leafie Mae's Inclusive Playground
Leafie Mae Playground in Kearney is the result of the community working together. A small group of parents and grandparents came together and started gaining community support for an inclusive playground in 2003. Ten years later, on May 6, 2013, the Leafie Mae Playground had its grand opening.
Charlie Pitkens, Jera Hinkle, and Kristen Larsen among others were parents and a grandparent of children with special needs and started working with the city of Kearney in terms of inclusion. A conference in Texas taught them about inclusive play, and so began the process of gathering the funds and support for what ultimately became a $465,000 playground.
A one cent tax increase raised the first $100,000. Kearney Kiwanis clubs, girl scouts, Park Elementary, and Kearney Young Professionals all helped raise $20,000. Support from Scott D. and Rochelle Morris and a grant from Game Time helped with the rest of the funds. The result is described as follows according to the signage on the playground,
“ Leafie Mae’s Inclusive Playground was designed with everyone in mind. Focusing on the whole child, this playground was strategically designed with equipment and surfacing that specifically address the physical, social, sensory, cognitive and communication needs of all children along various levels of challenge. By incorporating design features that encourage intuitive play behaviors, children can feel successful, gain confidence, and be independent as they explore and learn through play.”
Leafie Mae Inclusive Playground is located in Harmon Park in Kearney, NE. It is free and open to the public.