Fifth graders at Tobey Elementary in Vicksburg, Michigan, are showing that big hearts can come in small packages. The class started a fundraiser to help build an inclusive playground for a 5-year-old little girl with cerebral palsy, and so far, their efforts have been nothing short of exceptional.
Fox 17 reports that Carcel Tharge, a 5th grader at Tobey, often noticed Hannah Cook, a kindergartner, smiling and waving as she walked with a teacher’s aide. He also noticed that she played by herself in a sandbox during recess while all of the other kids were using the swings and slides. Carcel felt bad for her, and discussed the issue with his fellow students.
“Every time I see her she always likes to walk by me and wave. She always has the aide of another teacher. So me and my friend Trevor felt kind of bad….I see her playing there [the sandbox]. I go over and run to my friends and I’m like well is the school going to do anything. I’m pretty sure they are.”
Carcel and his friends approached the school’s principal, Mike Barwegen, and asked how they could help Hannah, who wears braces and uses a walker to move around.
“They came to me and said ‘What can we do about this?’” Barwegen said. And I asked them ‘What can we do?’ And they took it from there.”
The 5th graders figured out a way to help Hannah play with others at recess: an inclusive playground. Yet, since the school didn’t have the funds to build a new playground, the children took it upon themselves to start a fundraiser for Hannah. Along with creating a GoFundMe page that’s already reached $16,035 of its $20,000 goal, the kids created an adorable video to help spread awareness on Hannah’s behalf.
The kids are asking for any spare change. They’ve turned five-gallon water jug into donation jugs, with Hannah’s picture pasted on the front. Their efforts touched Principal Barwegan’s heart.
It’s wonderful to see. They just takeover. We had a parade Friday night and it was raining and they’re handing out flyers in the parade and giving up their own time to do things like that.”
Along with a new, inclusive playground, the children are hoping to raise money to build a ramp at the school, so that Hannah can easily walk to the play area. Fifth grader Natalie Balkema said that the playground will allow Hannah to swing and slide like the other kids.
“There’s going to be a ramp so she can walk up it with her walker. There’s going to be a little slide that she can go down and accessible swings for her. And everyone can play on that so she feels, you know, like part of the group.”
Hannah is currently undergoing surgery, but when she returns to school in November, the construction for the playground is tentatively scheduled to begin.
What Are Inclusive Playgrounds?
An inclusive playground, also known as a universally-designed playground, is a play environment in which children with all types of disabilities can play while helping to build their cognitive, emotional, physical, sensory and social needs. The swings are wider and have additional safety features, ramps are included to make it easier for children to access slides, and there’s room for wheelchairs and walkers to easily maneuver around. Additionally, most inclusive playgrounds provide ground-level activities and a number of sensory equipment.
Check out the adorable video below to see the 5th graders share their fundraiser!