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Kayla's Krew gains Franklin support for all-inclusive playground

July 22, 2014

Franklin — Port Washington has one, as does Oconomowoc. And soon, Franklin may have an all-accessible, all-inclusive playground as well.

On July 15, the Common Council directed staff to proceed with negotiations that would help Kayla's Krew — a nonprofit organization committed to building a community playground for all children, including those with special needs — develop such a facility.

Alderwoman Susanne Mayer, who suggested using park impact fees for the project, said it just made sense.

"It was just an idea I had," Mayer said. "Using the park impact fees would make this a real community park that's fun for everybody across the board. And this could be more than just a community park, too. It could be a regional park that attracts people from other communities."

Eyeing a site

Kayla's Krew is looking to build its playground on property owned by the Victory of the Lamb Church, which is in the process of building a church facility along West Loomis Road.

Adjacent to Victory of the Lamb's property is 49 acres owned by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District, used for its Greenseams Program to protect suburban watersheds and control stormwater. Representatives of the Greenseams Program expressed support for the playground and offered to contribute some of their property for the project, city staff reported.

"We're in the process of negotiating with a lot of different parties right now," Mayer said. "Nothing is set in stone and we don't know how much the cost will be at this point, but everything is really falling into place. There's been a lot of support from the (common) council and the community.

"This is going to be a really cool project. It's really exciting."

The council unanimously agreed July 15 to continue negotiations with Victory of the Lamb and the MMSD and for staff to return with the results for final consideration.

City staff anticipates that the all-accessible, all-inclusive playground project will also include walking trails and a park nature center.

"The expectation is that with proceeds from Kayla's Krew and the (potential) land transfer, the city will use park impact fee (reserves) to the fullest extent under the law," said Director of Administration Mark Luberda. "But until we get the final value of everything and a total cost estimate, we don't know how everything will shape up."

About Kayla's Krew

Kayla's Krew is named in honor of Kayla Runte, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 6 months old. Kayla died in 2012 when she is 8 years old.

Kayla loved going to the playground on play dates, said Shelly Runte, Kayla's mother and founder of Kayla's Krew.

Because of Kayla's medical condition, however, interacting with children on the playground was sometimes difficult.

"She had a lot of medical equipment, but I didn't want other children to shy away from her because of it," Runte said. "I knew (an all-accessible playground) was something our community needed. To give other children the opportunity to live and play on the same level is something that can't be taught in the classroom."

Kayla's Krew has been raising funds for the playground for two years. With the support of new parties, including the City of Franklin, the project has recently gained momentum.

"It's very exciting to look back at our progress and see all the partners coming forth," Runte said. "It's really bringing the community together."

A community Design Day is expected to be held once the project gets on its feet, she said. A similar Design Day was held for an all abilities playground in St. Francis on July 11.

"As we get closer and closer looking at the land, we'll have the community come in and work with staff engineers to help make the design," Runte said. "We have parents in the local community that want to voice their opinions because they have learned through their children."

According to an award-winning study conducted by Ben Franklin Elementary sixth-graders in 2013, there were 401 special needs children in Franklin.

Runte said she shares Kayla's story with residents at every fundraising event, including Forest Park Middle School's Field Day Celebration last month.

Forest Park students raised nearly $6,000 for the nonprofit.

"When I tell children and adults about Kayla, I can see compassion in their reactions," Runte said. "They always ask, 'How can I help?'

"Her story projects further than the playground. And she has taught us a lot that can be celebrated."

Golf outing

Kayla's Krew's next big fundraiser will be held on Monday, August 25 at the Tuckaway Country Club, located at 6901 W. Drexel Ave.

The "Kayla's Krew Golf Outing" welcomes golfers of all skill levels to help raise money for the playground. The day includes a scramble golf tournament, a silent auction and an evening dinner program.

"We hope this event encourages some businesses to become more rooted in the community," Runte said. "Let's build this playground together! Come on board and be a part of the movement."

The event begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m. Golf packages and an event schedule can be found at www.KaylasKrew.org.

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