Church event raises money for handicapped-accessible playground

Monday, May 3, 2010

Efforts to raise money for an all-ages, handicapped-accessible playground in Cape Girardeau County Park continued with a fundraiser at Abbey Road Christian Church on Sunday, where four folk bands entertained a small crowd pleased to donate to the cause.

The smell of fresh-baked brownies, a map illustrating the design of the playground and friendly churchgoers greeted those who attended the fundraiser, which featured music by Abbey Road, the church band, Janie Brown and the Chestnut Mountain Gang, Etherton Switch, and Dan and Abbie.

Listeners had a chance to donate money for the playground between sets or at any time in the church's main lobby.

Roann Dean, director of music at the church who also does vocals for Abbey Road, said the church has an Internet-based prayer group who has been following the playground's progress and wanted to contribute.

"The best thing for us to do is a concert because that's what we love to do. We love to play music," said Dean, who added that she wanted to help the cause simply because she's a mother.

The playground is set to be named in memory of Andrea and Jeff Cunningham's 3-year-old daughter, Melaina, who died last year of complications from pneumonia. Melaina had suffered from nemaline myopathy, a disease that causes the muscles to weaken.

Melaina was in a wheelchair because of her condition, said Andrea Cunningham, and whenever she would play at an area playground she found it difficult to access the equipment because of gravel or mulch surrounding the swings and slides.

"We thought that there has to be a solution. We wanted to create something that was appropriate for all age levels and appealing not to just kids with disabilities, but to kids of all abilities," said Cunningham, who has been leading an initiative to build Melaina's Magical Playland since 2008.

In addition to fundraisers, the playground committee has applied for grants and received allocations from the Cape Girardeau County Commission and various civic organizations. Around $300,000 has been raised for the playground, which, including labor, will cost around $750,000 to construct. It will be equipped with awnings for shade, playground equipment with special surfacing and handicapped-accessible restrooms.

"We think it's going to be appealing to all types of kids, and challenging for that matter, because we're not trying to just encourage social play, but also physical activity in the community," Cunningham said. "It'll be a playground for everybody; it doesn't discriminate against people who have special needs or some type of disability."

Within a few weeks, the committee will launch a website that people can visit to learn more about the playground and to donate to the cause. People interested in donating before the site is online can contact Cunningham by e-mail at cunninghammail@yahoo.com

"Our hope would be to start breaking ground next spring, in 2011," Cunningham said.

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent Address:

2411 Abbey Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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