Hannah Bendsen was never able to use a regular playground but friends and relatives of the little girl hope to build an all-inclusive playground in Breese for other children with developmental problems.
Michael and Debbie Berndsen, of Breese, said Hannah, 7, died last year. She had epilepsy, developmental problems and cerebral palsy but loved watching her sister play although she never could.
They encouraged their friends and family to remember the phrase Run And Play as a way to continue Hannah's legacy. A silent auction, Hats Off to Hannah's Playground on Saturday night will help honor the little girl.
Angie Wuebbels, a physical therapist who works with several school districts, is heading up an effort to build Hannah's Playground, a new inclusive playground at North End Park in Breese.
She said a group of people are working with Unlimited Play in St. Peters, Mo., a nonprofit group that specializes in such playgrounds. They will build the playground with adaptive equipment, including soft rubber mats, ramps and other methods to make them easily accessible. The playground will have a barnyard theme and include a lot of sensory experiences.
Wuebbels became involved when she was taking graduate classes at St. Louis University, working a doctoral project that involved community wellness. She settled on inclusive playgrounds.
"Most of the kids I work with are slow walkers, or use a walker or a wheelchair," she said. "They couldn't get on playground equipment."
She saw a similar project in a St. Louis suburb on a television news show and learned about Unlimited Play, the nonprofit company started by a mom with a special needs child.
After Wuebbel's project was done, her professor said it was good, now make it happen, she said.
"I found it was a lot easier to write it than to do it," she said.
But after several years of planning, talking to the village of Breese officials and talking to the company, Hannah's project started raising money last year. The goal is $265,000 and they have more than $80,000 in donations of various kinds.
The auction Saturday night at the Breese American Legion Hall will feature a unique hats contest, hence the name Hats Off for Hannah's Playground, among other events. There will be drinks, live music and food. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the auction beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for individuals and $15 for couples.
For more information you can visit Hanna's Playground on Facebook or at: www.unlimitedplay.org/hannah-s-playground.
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