South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Church hosting ceremony to break ground on memorial community playground

Memorial playground will be open to entire community
Photo by Unlimited Play
St. Johns Evangelical United Church of Christ, 11333 St. Johns Church Road in Green Park, is hosting a groundbreaking ceremony March 5, 2023, for Logan’s Community Playground, an accessible and inclusive playground in memory of a late member of the church who died in 2021. The playground will be constructed by Unlimited Play, a nonprofit based in St. Peters that builds accessible playgrounds across the country. The playground will be open for the entire community to use once it is completed.

St. Johns Evangelical United Church of Christ is hosting a groundbreaking ceremony Sunday for “Logan’s Community Playground”, an accessible and inclusive playground in honor of a late member of the church, Logan Zielinski.

The ceremony is at 11:15 a.m. Sunday, March 5 at the church in Green Park, 11333 St. Johns Church Road.

Zielinksi, 12, was an active member of the church when he passed away in 2021 in an accident. His family and a committee at St. Johns have worked together over the past year since his death to fundraise money to build an inclusive and accessible playground on the church property next to the dog park. The playground will be for the entire community to use.

“He grew up in our church … he was the church’s kid,” Pastor Debby Harness told The Call. “One of things about Logan, like when I would do a children’s message, if for some reason if I didn’t have enough of something, he would say ‘Here, give them mine.’”

His best friend had a little sister with a disability and Zielinski always made sure that she was included.

“If there was one thing about Logan, it was including other people,” Harness said.

The idea for the playground came to be after  Zielinski’s passing. The church had been discussing building a playground for several years and saw the opportunity to channel their grief into something positive for the community and to memorialize Zielinski.

“I said to (Zielinski’s father) what about building a playground for Logan and he said, and I quote ‘Just make it orange’ because that was Logan’s favorite color,” Harness said.

A committee was formed headed by Zielinski’s prayer partner, Sherry Ruhl, who essentially became chair of the playground project.

“What we knew is that Logan would want everyone to be included. As I started doing some research we could have done a traditional playground but I came across a nonprofit called Unlimited Play … they build … playgrounds all across the country and they are playgrounds designed to be inclusive and accessible so that all children can play no matter their ability,” Ruhl said. “We knew that this is the type of playground we wanted to put here at St. Johns, that we knew Logan wanted us to build because again, what was most important to Logan is that everyone was included, everyone had a place.”

The playground will be both accessible and inclusive, meaning not only children with disabilities will be able to use the playground, but so will parents and caregivers who may also have disabilities as well. The playground will not only be accessible for those with physical disabilities but also for those with sensory sensitivities, with little “cubbies” built-in for quiet, sensory play. The playground designers, Unlimited Play, are based out of St. Peters.

“It really opened our eyes to what an inclusive and accessible playground is for all people,” Harness said.

The playground will be car-themed, to reflect Zielinski’s love of “anything with a motor.” The signature piece will be an orange race car with the number nine on it, since that was his favorite number.

The playground is estimated to be about $300,000 to build and Ruhl said that both the church and the community have been extremely generous in helping them raise money for the project.

“The congregation have been very supportive but not only the congregation … the community has been so supportive, businesses, organizations, individuals in the community, just all have supported this,” Ruhl said.

Ruhl said that she hopes the installation of the playground will start a trend in the community to build more accessible and inclusive playgrounds.

“(Zielinski) just really embodied inclusiveness … and again, it was easy when we started thinking about what type of playground that we wanted we realized there is a need in our community for this type of playground,” Ruhl said. “There are other playgrounds that are obviously ADA-compliant … but there are few that are accessible and inclusive and so we really realized there was need in our community for this type of playground. Our hope certainly if we build one maybe other organizations and groups … will consider putting in a playground that is accessible and inclusive to everyone.”

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