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The Can-Do Playground

The relentless volunteers who drove Possibility Playground to success showed what amazing things this community can accomplish

–Ozaukee Press OPINION Editorial, September 19, 2008

Children will be thrilled by the playground being built this weekend in Port Washington’s Upper Lake Park. But this playground is for adults too—for the adults of the Port Washington-Saukville area to behold as a symbol of the amazing things a community can accomplish.

It’s called Possibility Playground, because it is designed in a way that makes it possible for every child to enjoy it, including those who are disabled. But when the project was announced, with a fund-raising goal of nearly half a million dollars, doubters suggested that “Impossibility Playground” would have been a better name.

Now it turns out that “Possibility” stands for not just opportunities for disabled kids, but for a bracing reaffirmation of the credo that anything is possible.

The volunteers who united around the project have raised most of the $450,000 needed for the design and materials. They’ve secured in-kind donations of services and materials of enormous value. And they’ve recruited the hundreds of volunteers who began building the playground Tuesday.

They accomplished all of this against daunting odds. Their fund-raising goal was a veritable Mount Everest to scale in this small community, especially during a time of economic malaise, when many worthy organizations and causes are competing for scarce dollars.

The Possibility Playground project became possible because its organizers and volunteers embraced their cause with a zeal that missionaries would envy and that many in the community found irresistible.

The volunteers made their pitch at farmers markets, service club meetings, festivals, the County Fair, almost any place more than a few people gathered.

And what a compelling pitch it was—an opportunity to be part of an effort to do something wonderful for the community’s children—all the community’s children.

The distinctive feature of the Possibility Playground is that it will be accessible by disabled children—think of the joy awaiting a wheelchair-bound child who might never before have been able to join other children on playground equipment. But it would be a mistake to categorize this as a facility for any special group. It is for all children regardless of ability or disability.

That was emphasized when organizers asked the school children of Port and Saukville to submit suggestions for playground features. Some of those clever and creative ideas will be seen in the playground that materializes this weekend.

Many projects are community initiatives—that’s how a lot gets done these days when local government’s ability to provide anything beyond essential services is shrinking—but this one, grass-roots and home-grown, is community with a capital “C”; not just the planning and fund-raising, but its hands-on construction. Hundreds of men and women, assisted by teenagers and workers’ children as young as 10, are pounding nails, drilling holes, sawing boards, raising beams, building what months ago was only a dream.

The end result will be a complex and intriguing place to play, that is easy to access and safe yet still challenging, on a shaded site the size of a football field in Port Washington’s signature park. It will also be an enduring testament to the can-do spirit of the Port Washington-Saukville community.

Possibility Playground will be a great resource, but an even more valuable one is the band of motivated citizens who created it. There is much to be done in this community, and they’ve shown they know how to do it. We have no doubt they will answer another call.

Speaking of answering the call. Construction help is still needed. Just show up at Upper Lake Park between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. any day this week through Sunday. Your reward for investing this sweat equity? You’ll be able to say, “I helped build Possibility Playground.”