As what the National Weather Service described as a “significant weather event” rumbled as it approached in the background, 25 children and a handful of adults officially cut the ribbon on Kewaunee Elementary School’s brand-new, all-inclusive playground Wednesday afternoon.

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A soft surface and various other design elements make the playground all-inclusive, that is, open to children of all abilities.

“When we started this planning, we decided to dream big,” Superintendent Karen Treml. “We didn’t know if we could get there – and we did it.”

A crew of 35 volunteers braved “rain and muck” in early August to build the playground, and the special soft surface was installed late last week over most of the area.

Another $40,000 or so will be needed to complete installing the surface – a corner of the playground is covered with wood chips – but the community raised $188,000 to get the bulk of the work done, Treml said.

Bellin Health provided a major jump start when it donated $60,000, and Bellin officials were on hand to acknowledge Treml’s salute and the applause of the assembled kids and parents.

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A heavy thunderstorm threatened to arrive during the playground ribbon-cutting ceremony but held off until after the kids had some time to check out the equipment.

“One of the things as part of the donation, they wanted the kids to feel like they were part of bringing this playground to Kewaunee,” Treml said. “So we developed a little system and a plan where the kids could do physical activities, a variety of different things, that would earn them ‘Playground Points. And once the kids earned – and this was all the kids in the grade school – once they earned 60,000 Playground Points, that released the funds to us.”

The rest of the money was raised by “this absolutely amazing community,” she said.

“There were candy bar sales and brat fries and cupcakes and Playground-Paloozas and tacos at the park and you name it, we did it to try to raise the money,” Treml said.

The superintendent handed out flowers to some of the most dedicated volunteer parents, and then she distributed scissors to the 25 top earners of Playground Points, who worked together to cut the purple and gold ribbons and officially open the playground.

The weather event – a heavy thunderstorm – held off until after the ceremony was completed and the kids had a few minutes to check out the slides, swings, climbing wallls, AeroGlider and other newly installed equipment.