Sep 18, 2011

All Children Together Community Playground Dedicated in Wisconsin Rapids

By Jackie Captain

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the All Children Together (ACT) park, an all-accessible community playground, is set for 4 p.m. Sunday, September 18, 2011.  The playground is located at the corner of Clyde and Lincoln Streets, near Grove Elementary School in Wisconsin Rapids, the former site of the school forest.

The public is invited.

A generation and a half of Captains attended Grove Elementary school, and my sister, Jan Captain, carried on the tradition binding a community of families.

When it came time for Jan to start school, my parents wanted her to be as 'normal' as every other five-year-old. Except she wasn’t.

Jan had many, many surgeries to build and reconstruct organs and bones that most people take for granted. She had spent large portions of her life in and out of the hospital. She was extremely bright and wanted to learn, but when she went off to school, her whole family worried about other kids making fun of her – and they did.

But many also befriended her and became life-long friends – Ann Olson, Lisa Devers, Debbie Falkowsky were remarkable children and are extraordinary adults.

The teachers and secretaries also watched out for Jan, and many kept in touch with her for years afterward. To help Jan take care of medical needs, my Mom became the playground attendant and, to Jan’s embarrassment and pride, became known to and befriended most of the kids who passed through Grove School in the 1970s. Wherever we went (even today) kids came up to say "Hi, Mrs. Captain," and to share some memories of their time on the playground.

Jan died on Christmas eve in 2009. A memorial picnic table will be dedicated today in her honor at the All Children Together (ACT) playground at Grove School – a place of love and kindness where children, regardless of any disability, can play and have fun.

Jan would have liked to have known that many children will benefit from a community coming together to celebrate diversity and to make sure all kids can have a place to feel safe and just enjoy themselves.

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