View All Posts

Aug 05

What a Celebration in Owatonna!

Posted on August 5, 2021 at 1:31 PM by Timothy O'Connor

This past week Owatonna got to celebrate the culmination of a grass roots project started more than five years ago by moms Missy Ahrens and Amanda Gislason, they had a dream.  They worked tirelessly for We All Play!  And now, their children Miley and Gunnar, played alongside hundreds of others and enjoyed the Grand Opening of the city’s first inclusive playground and Miracle Field baseball field.

I am borrowing parts of Missy’s speech (with her permission) to explain how important of a project and just how big of a deal this really is.  

How is this project different?  It changes lives.   Not a lot of people had heard of an inclusive playground at the start.   Inclusion, no barriers, all abilities, accessibility and intergenerational were some of the words they used to help people understand why this was such a need in our community.   Every child deserves the opportunity to play, and just as important, every parent and grandparent should have the opportunity to be able to play with their children and grandchildren.

Missy challenged each and everyone in the crowd of over 500 to find ways to build in inclusion in their lives, in our community and within our school system.  Say “hi”, extend the invitation, presume competence, celebrate differences, be conscious of the visible and invisible barriers and ask how do I remove them.  Be intentional in planning, get creative and speak up!  Monday was that first step toward an inclusive community!

We.  All.  Play.   Three simple words.  Two amazing kids.  Huge community support.  One pretty awesome park!

How can we best understand what inclusion can look like?  Enjoy the pictures of our community, together.