Austin Smith Inclusive Playground nears ‘final reach’

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     With a goal of construction in the first week in August, the Austin Smith Inclusive Playground is ready for the homestretch.

     Very soon, the Austin Strong Foundation will be rolling out “The Final Reach,” a campaign to raise the remaining $50,000 to get the all-inclusive playground erected and built before the start of the 2022-23 school year.

     The equipment is in hand. The ground is ready. The installers through Boland Recreation, Inc. are prepped. 

      “We have all of the equipment in our possession,” said Mikinzie Smith, mother of Austin Smith, of whom the playground is dedicated to after losing his life in 2016 to childhood cancer (DIPG) at the age of 6.

     The playground equipment was delivered in early April. Due to the rising cost of steel, Mikinzie said they were able to save about $30,000 on their equipment order by getting it early.

      “It was well worth ordering early,” she remarked.

     After the equipment is installed, the PIP (poured-in-place) rubber flooring will be installed. The Smiths said they chose to go with this type of surface because it offers enhanced protection from falls, should a little one fall down, which tends to happen in play. PIP also makes it easier for people to push strollers or a wheelchair around.

     With the “Final Reach” campaign, there are several new ways to assist and give to see this unique community project become a reality:

     • Become an Avenger Sponsor by donating $250-plus

     • Become a Crusader Sponsor by donating $150

     • Become a Sidekick Sponsor by donating $75

     All donations totaling $1,000 and above will be permanently recognized at the playground site via the donor wall.

      “This is your chance to get in on the homestretch of this project,” urged Mikinzie, “at an affordable level.”

     While a group of volunteers can generally erect a playground, the Smiths said that under the recommendation of Boland Recreation, they plan to hire a crew from the company to do the main structures of the playground.

      “It’s a very complex design,” noted Mikinzie.

     But, the smaller, individual pieces will be built by community volunteers with a company foreman overseeing the work.

     The Austin Smith inclusive Playground is looking at a final $430,000 price tag. Thanks to donations, they’re just $50,000 away from their goal.

     Initially, the playground was going to be built in two phases: the “tot’ (younger children’s) area and the older kids’ area.

      “We were able to streamline the design,” explained Mikinzie. “The pieces we chose cater to a larger age range.”

     The playground is just over 10,000 square feet.

      “It’s a superhero-sized project,” joked Mikinzie of the design, just like the figures Austin was drawn to.

     To help raise money for this final leg of the playground project, the Austin Strong Foundation is hosting a bags tournament at the Berndes Center on May 14. Doors open at 8:30 a.m.; the bags will fly at 10 a.m.

     The cost is $60 per team.

     The Foundation is working with Mitchell Miller of Cascade, owner of Miller Cornhole Boards to organize the event. Miller also has a following of bags players and teams, which will help add to the event.

      “He’s put bags tournaments on in the Cascade area,” noted Britt Smith. “He has a following that should bring people here to play.”

     Taylor Concessions food truck will be on site for the all-day event.

     There is no limit the number of teams that sign up. If younger people show interest, Britt said different levels of play such as amateur and professional will also be established.

      “The duration of the tournament depends on the number of teams,” said Britt.

     The Smiths anticipate the bags tournament becoming an annual event.

      “Even when the playground is finished, there will still be things needed for the playground and eventually upkeep,” Mikinzie said. “We can put this money toward that.”

     The Foundation’s biggest fundraiser is the Seventh Annual Ride & Drive Like a Superhero event, sponsored by Sally’s on Broadway in Springville. It will take place on June 12.

     The Smiths, the Foundation, and the Monticello community are all looking forward to what the Austin Smith Inclusive Playground will look like.

      “It all hinges on getting the support we need,” urged Mikinzie of the final dollars needed to make this project a reality. “Anything over $50,000 in just icing on the cake, possible bonus features at the site. We are so appreciative of the support we have had with this project.”

     Donations can be made to: Austin Smith Inclusive Playground, P.O. Box 727, Monticello, IA 52310.


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