Adventure Playground moves forward

FAIRMONT — One year ago, members of the Adventure Playground task force made its initial public pitch to the Fairmont Park Board, championing its goal of a playground accessible to all children regardless of their physical abilities. Formed in early 2017, the task force spent a few months researching the feasibility of an accessible playground before jumping into ambitious fundraising for the $500,000 project, hoping for construction in 2019.

About 11 percent of children have some type of disability. When you factor in their family members and friends, thousands of people in the region would be impacted by having such a recreational facility in Fairmont.

Plans are to locate the accessible playground next to the existing play area at Gomsrud Park, which will enable utilization of the park’s handicapped-accessible rest rooms and parking area.

After a year of non-stop grant writing and presentations to local organizations, the task force’s enthusiasm has not waned. In fact, their passion and dedication has been ramped up, according to task force members Shelly Krahmer, Sara Pierce and Jodie Whitmore who looked back on their astounding progress over the past year.

“From a fundraising perspective, we didn’t ask for a single dollar until September (2017). That was the first grant and the first time we asked the city for money,” Krahmer said.

In nine months, more than $316,000 has been raised. A big portion of that came from the City of Fairmont which allotted $150,000 in its 2018 budget for the project. The funds came from liquor store profits which the city uses to finance special projects.

“That’s not property taxes going up,” Whitmore said. “It’s not part of the (local option) sales tax revenue. It’s money that is raised just by purchasing at the local liquor store.”

“We’re celebrating. We’ve matched what we committed to do,” Krahmer said. “We committed to match the funds the city gave us in their 2018 budget, and we’ve exceeded that so that’s very exciting.”

Other notable gifts came from the Schmeeckle Foundation for $40,000 and at least $10,000 each from the Rosen Family Foundation, Krahmer Farms and an anonymous donor. Valero donated a local grant of $6,000 and nominated the playground to be a recipient of $20,000 from its National Benefit for Children grant.

“CHS, who gave the initial $12,500 that got this project started, just pledged another $12,500 for this year. That’s been a huge cornerstone to the project,” Krahmer said.

“MOSS (Many Offerings of Special Support) has been a huge contributor and still continues to help with direct donations from members as well as organizing and hosting fundraising events,” Pierce said.

“The club and association support has been phenomenal,” Krahmer said, noting that local groups donated about $30,000 to the project. “Rotary, Kiwanis, MOSS have all had fundraising events. The kids with Martin County West FFA worked to give their own donation of $1,200. The firefighters and police department, the Fairmont Legion all donated. The Eagles Club has submitted three separate grants for us, and Pheasants Forever gave $1,000 from their ‘No Kids Left Indoors’ program.”

“Most of these groups asked us to talk to them. It wasn’t us reaching out,” Pierce said, illustrating the community-wide support for the Adventure Playground.

“But the best one for us was Jackson,” Whitmore said, referring to Jackson Goraczkowski, a Granada elementary school student who was born with spina bifada, a condition that requires him to use a wheelchair for mobility. “That kid came up with an idea himself. He wanted to sell make Special K bars and sell them and raise $200. He raised $817, and that was in Granada.”

“It certainly takes the whole breadth of a community to support a project like this, and we’ve gotten great support from the local and regional foundations and families,” Krahmer said.

Grant monies received total more than $63,000. Individual donations account for about $26,500 of the total, with businesses donating about $47,500.

With the tremendous amount already collected, the task force can see the finish line.

“The current gap is about $170,000, but we have eight grants that are pending,” Krahmer said, adding that grants, unfortunately, are “all or nothing,” meaning you get the full grant or nothing at all. “We have events planned, with mailings and public fundraisers. We’re launching a public mailing campaign in July.”

MOSS is sponsoring a “grocery dash” on June 28 at Hy-Vee when a person will get a chance to win a 2-minute shopping spree at the store. Tickets are $10 and are available from any task force member, MOSS member and at the store’s service desk.

“You can do the grocery dash. You can appoint anyone you want to do it for you, or you can take a cash option,” Whitmore said.

“We’re also planning a public fundraising event in September. It’s going to be very Martin County themed,” Pierce said. “We’re working on getting the perfect facility, and we’re working out a lot of other details right now.”

On June 29, the Adventure Playground task force members will travel to Delano for a tour of Landscape Structures Inc., who will be building the playground. LSI is a 45-year-old employee-owned company with 300 employees.

The original cost of the playground was $480,000, but due to changes from the original design, plus a $9,000 jump because of the new steel tariff, the cost is closer to $500,000.

“The task force is committed to aggressively fundraising for this project because we believe in it,” Krahmer said. “It’s summer. It’s playground season. We want this to be the last summer that there is no place for all children to play.”

For more information about Adventure Playground, visit the website www.exploreadventureplayground.com. Donations are tax-deductible, and the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and the City of Fairmont are serving as the project’s fiscal agent.

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