This Sunday volunteers who played a role in making Kayla’s Playground in Franklin a reality will gather to celebrate the playground’s 1st anniversary. Here’s a sampling of my blogging on that big day in October of 2015:
Once again I was privileged to serve as the emcee.
(I was also happy to be the emcee at the groundbreaking).
Thanks, once again, to Shelly Runte (Kayla’s mom) and Mayor Olson for letting me play a small part in this phenomenal project. I called the ribbon cutting the “greatest moment in the history of the city of Franklin.”
There was a special proclamation from Mayor Steve Olson.
Four live TV news trucks were on hand.
You’d think the President was in town.
A few photos from October 9, 2015:
October 10, 2015: The morning after.
And from the groundbreaking for Kayla’s Playground, July 24, 2015:
Late Thursday afternoon at Franklin Woods under sunny blue skies, the groundbreaking ceremony was held for Kayla’s Playground.
I was honored to be asked by Shelly Runte and Kayla’s Krew to serve as the emcee for the ground breaking.
I spoke without written notes but let me paraphrase some of my opening remarks:
I moved into Franklin in 1992.
It didn’t take me long to learn about our city.
There are certain elements, components, characteristics about Franklin that we truly cherish and value.
An overall sense of community.
The folks that live on our streets we call neighbors.
Today we continue our commitment to each one of those.
There were phenomenal volunteer activities leading up to today. The fundraising. The making of butterflies. Attending meetings.
All of that put us in a position to do something. Today, we actually will do something.
In addition to the all the volunteer efforts, to get to here, of course, there is a process. City Hall needs to give its blessing.
That means, from the political spectrum there needs to be a leader.
Thankfully, Franklin has been blessed with that leader.
From Day One he was steadfastly a staunch supporter.
And he did everything in his power he possibly could to ensure this project would become a reality, that every move would be taken to get us to this point today.
I’m not surprised. Children have always been a priority for him.
When I first met him he was working on legislation not just for the children of Franklin, but for all the children of our great state to protect them from sex offenders.
We owe him our sincerest gratitude for what he’s done and what he continues to do for the city of Franklin. (Applause)
I then called Mayor Olson to speak. Here are his remarks:
We frequently experience ground breakings here in Franklin. I hope we’ll be doing them a lot more in the future. Almost all groundbreakings mark construction of a new building that brings jobs and tax base to our community. This ground breaking will celebrate joy and inclusion rather than bricks and mortar.
Today we break ground for a wonderful new playground. This playground will be unique to the area and will bring joy to the community that doesn’t exist today.
Our path to this day has been a metaphor.
Children who have less ability face challenges, road blocks and disappointment just as we have during this project.
But our path today pales in comparison.
But now we start on a new endeavor. We move together to provide happiness, friendship and understanding. We’re about to provide a fun place where children and adults can play together and learn acceptance and friendship and even some life lessons.
This special location will bring nature to those who may not have been able to fully experience it; joy where it has been elusive; friendship where it may have been distant.
I must acknowledge the dedication of the Franklin city staff. Just about everyone at City Hall and at DPW dedicated their efforts toward this day and our completion in October.
Jesse took the lead and found the butterfly, then Sandi and Jerry helped get us to this site. Glen took the helm and used his experience with another accessible playground to get us here today.
Mark, Lisa, Andrea, Paul, Joel were instrumental in so many ways.
Aldermen Dandrea, Evans and Dan Mayer provided the critical leadership to get us here.
I hope so many others whom worked on the project won’t be offended that I didn’t mention them by name.
They have my gratitude and the gratitude of every family who will use this playground.
The force behind this effort has been the unconditional love of a mother for her daughter.
For over a year I’ve had the great pleasure and honor to work with Shelly on this project of love. Shelly, John and Brooke have been wonderful in sharing some of the lessons that they’ve learned from precious daughter Kayla. With this playground, Kayla’s memory and life lessons will continue. The Runte family is truly the best Franklin has to offer.
So, in a few minutes we’ll have a unique groundbreaking, one that will create its own legacy that won’t soon be repeated.
Mayor Olson concluded and kicked it back to me.
Next, an incredible lady.
The road to get to today’s groundbreaking hasn’t always been smooth.
The skies haven’t always been (like today) sunny and blue.
As Channel 58 so diplomatically reported…there have been hiccups.
Despite those hiccups, this incredible woman held her head high.
She was the epitome of class and dignity. The perfect role model.
And you thought there was only Rock in the city of Milwaukee.
I like to refer to her as the earthly source of inspiration for this project. The earthly inspiration.
And this is where I believe the highlight of the groundbreaking took place. I continued.
In heaven, I’m pretty sure Kayla is smiling.
Immediately as I finished that sentence, three of the shovels in the group of shovels to my left that had been firmly planted in the ground suddenly fell over.
I paused as the audience did a collective “Oh.”
One person spoke out, “It’s Kayla.”
I finally responded.
Kayla, we heard that and we saw it.
Kayla is smiling and is very proud.
She knows that her mother has been simply extraordinary in her crusade on behalf of her daughter.
I don’t want to offend any English or grammar teachers in the crowd, but Mom, you done good. You done real good.
I then introduced Shelly Runte.
Groundbreaking…a moment we have been waiting for! While today is a day of celebration I always like to parallel our journey with that of Kayla’s life. Let’s look at groundbreaking in another light…breaking ground… All of us have experienced moments in life where you feel like the ground beneath us is breaking…for our family, it was the news of Kayla not breathing shortly after birth and it turned our world upside down…disrupted our soil, but over time we had a community who wrapped their arms around us and created a strength in the ground that we stood on. This strength provided support to take on the journey of raising a child with special needs and included quality of life for Kayla and our family. We discovered Penfield Children’s Center and Franklin Public School District who valued inclusion for all abilities. That inclusion opened the doors for friendship (Alexis, Jack, Noah, Lilly, Zach, Abby) and I personally received the beautiful gift of witnessing the natural teaching of life lessons…we began to see the silver lining in our ground that was disrupted.
Again, when Kayla passed away we had our soil turned over. Where would the silver lining be? It was in very generous amount of people , well over 80, who come to our home to say goodbye as well as the wall to wall people who attended her funeral. That speaks volumes for a little girl who never spoke a word. This detail inspired us to create Kayla’s Krew Advisory Board which consists of Larry Acker, Lori Becker, Vicki Green, Krista Lichterman, Darla Miller and Amanda Mix. Our mission? To build a playground for all abilities. Again from a disruption in our life–a community came together to help: Penfield Children’s Center has served as our Fiscal Sponsor, Franklin and Greendale Public School Districts have held many events, sold butterflies and have allowed their students to be included throughout the process. Our local Pick’n Save store welcomed us to have many events at their store when we just had a dream. Many, many more businesses, groups and organizations within Franklin, Greendale and other neighboring communities—too many to include in this ceremony–have stepped up in helping with fundraising, making, selling and purchasing butterflies and holding events to support our mission. I would like to thank Pastor Ben and the members of Victory of the Lamb Church for offering a site for our playground on their property-that offering will never be forgotten. While the journey for land changed from Plan A into Plan B, then C, and finally D we continued to look for the silver lining…our dream has become a reality. We certainly would not be here today without the commitment from Mayor Olson for Kayla’s Playground. And I echo the Mayor’s comments regarding the support from the common council members and especially the City of Franklin staff as well as the support from the Park, Planning and Environmental commissions. We thank those who have showed their support in their actions.
Today we break ground and disrupt and weaken the soil only to be followed by hundreds of volunteers who will walk on this very ground to create a strong foundation to build Kayla’s Playground. A community once again coming together to strengthen and to build our community in this beautiful setting of Franklin Woods Nature Center! We couldn’t ask for a better silver lining.