Playland pavers: Organizers are selling brick pavers to help raise funds to finish Melaina's Magical Playland

Sunday, January 13, 2013
Melaina's Magical Playland, which is being built in memory Melaina Cunningham at Cape County Park. (ADAM VOGLER)

It has been four years since the dream of Melaina's Magical Playland took flight. The playground is designed to accommodate children of all levels of physical ability. In that time, various fundraisers from all around the area have brought the coffers close to the total needed to complete the project.

As the numbers creep closer to the final goal, more fundraising is still needed. To help reach this goal, organizers have launched a brick paver project.

Kasten Masonry of Jackson is providing brick pavers to be sold. Each paver will be installed at the playground location and can be engraved to the purchaser's wishes.

Jeff, Andrea and Holland, 2, Cunningham Friday, August 24, at Melaina's Magical Playland at Cape County Park. The playground is being built in memory of the Cunningham's daughter, Melaina. (ADAM VOGLER)

Pavers are available in two different sizes: 4-inch-by-8-inch and 8-inch-by-8-inch. The smaller paver is $100 and has room for two lines of text -- 14 characters on each line, including spaces. The larger paver is $250 and allows for four lines of text.

Andrea Cunningham noted the paver cost is tax deductible.

Cunningham said pavers are often thought of as memorials, but she encourages people to think of them in other ways as well.

"The pavers would also be appropriate to recognize or pay tribute to someone special, celebrate a special occasion, create a lasting memorial, or rejoice in a birth, for example," she said. "We do have some pavers we've had placed in various locations, memorializing Melaina. But we also intend to have one inscribed with her little sister Holland's name on it, too. We are excited that her brick will have a forever home at this site that has such significant meaning for our family."

The playground was inspired by Andrea and Jeff Cunningham's daughter, Melaina.

Melaina was born with a rare neuromuscular disease that limited her abilities to do physical things like play on a typical playground.

"She longed to do the things her peers were doing," Cunningham said, "so it got me to thinking and researching a solution. I was actually a little surprised that there were no inclusive, accessible playgrounds in our area -- we would have had to travel over 100 miles to find one."

The Cunninghams enlisted the help of former State Representative and current judge Scott Lipke and Kiefner Bros Construction to begin their dream. Now, with completion in sight, they and many others involved with this labor of love are excited.

Organizers are planning to use engraved paving stones to recognize donors to Melaina’s Magical Playland. Individuals, civic organizations and businesses can have their name engraved on the stones for a donation of $100 for the smaller stone, left, and $250 and above for the larger stone. (ADAM VOGLER)

"Now, children and adults in our community, surrounding communities and beyond will have a destination that will bring those of all ability levels together and does not exclude them because they might have a disability," Cunningham said. "We are thrilled that this is actually happening."

There are a lot of children looking forward to the grand opening, which, according to Cunningham, ideally will take place in late spring or early summer.

"The playground construction is still underway; however, things have slowed down due to cold weather conditions," she said. "We are in the final phases of the project and we hope to install the accessible restroom/pavilion, lay asphalt for parking lots, complete landscaping and finish the concrete walkways and curbs when the weather permits."

Recently, the rubber play surface that covers the ground in and around the playground was completed. A quick drive by the location on the west side of Cape County Park North and you can see how close everything is.

Melaina’s Magical Playland is being built in memory of Melaina Cunningham at Cape County Park. (ADAM VOGLER)

"To date, we are approximately $175,000 short of our $950,000 goal," Cunningham said. "It has taken over four years to raise this amount of money, and we are optimistic that it will happen, given the generosity we've seen so far. It's a great investment in our community and our children, and speaks volumes about what we value."

In addition to the pavers, there are events scheduled to help reach the fundraising goal.

"We also have a 5K walk/run in the works to take place on Saturday, March 23rd in Cape Girardeau," Cunningham said. "There will also be a Trivia Night coming up as well.

"We recently were surprised with a donation from Simmons Family Martial Arts, who held a 'Board Break-a-Thon' with their students. School fundraisers and lemonade stand proceeds have also been sent to us, and we appreciate each and every dollar raised that put us that much closer to the goal."

Traci Ritter, who is coordinating the paver project, explained how something as simple as a playground can bring the community together.

"I believe strongly that unless we very purposefully include people with disabilities in every aspect of our community, they will be inadvertently excluded," Ritter said. "That is why I feel so strongly about this project. We are creating a real opportunity for social inclusion for children with disabilities. Every child deserves to be able to have access to their local playgrounds and parks."

Details on the paver fundraiser, including an order form, can be found online at, the group's Facebook page and at Checks and order forms may be mailed to PO Box 211, Cape Girardeau, MO 63702.

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