The playground is now ready for adventure.
In an announcement made Oct. 6 on Facebook, The Lucas and Friends Backyard Adventures playground is open and safe for kids.
“It is finally open and all of phase one is complete,” Lucas Fritsche said in a short video announcement. “I want to thank all those who helped us on phase one. It is now open and let’s all play.”
Lucas’ mother, Jennifer Fritsche, and a group of volunteers put together a plan to construct phase one of the playground on the west side of French Lane, south of the Perryville Splash Pad.
Now, five years later, that portion is complete.
“When we opened the playground it was emotional,” Jennifer Fritsche said. “We were taken aback and Lucas was speechless and that’s pretty shocking for him.”
That sort of emotional response has come from the years of hard work.
“So many people have come together to make this happen,” Jennifer Fritsche said. “We know that it took a really long time, but having a majority of the project built by volunteers and raising money ourselves is special to us.”
The playground project was Lucas’ idea. When Fritsche was in third grade, he noticed that his friend with disabilities could only play on the swings.
Wanting to give his friend and others with disabilities the same opportunity to play that he has, Fritsche got to work on the idea for an all-inclusive playground.
He presented his ideas at his school and spoke with the city on making this dream come true. The project has been a partnership between the Fritsches, Perry County, and the city of Perryville, as well as countless local businesses and volunteers.
Phase 1 includes a huge ramping structure, tree house and musical equipment. The project took $500,000 to complete through donations and various fundraising efforts.
“We feel extremely grateful and blessed to live in this community and for so many to help on this project,” she said. “We want to say thank you for all of the support.”
The Fritsches got their first look at how the playground will help those with disabilities shortly after it opened.
“The first day that we stopped in, there was a dad in a wheelchair and he was playing with his kids,” Jennifer Fritsche said. “We were excited to see it used in so many ways.”
An official grand opening of the playground is scheduled for Oct. 30 at 10 a.m. at Robert J. Miget Park.
The event will feature food and drinks along with short speeches by Perryville Mayor Ken Bear and the Fritsche family, along with a ribbon cutting with the Perryville Area Chamber of Commerce.
“It will be a celebration for the opening of the playground,” Jennifer Fritsche said.
Phase one is not the end of the project as the next portion is already in progress. The next phase will include swings and other features.
Fritsche hopes to have drawings and visuals for the community to view at the grand opening.
Above all, Fritsche hopes that everyone who plays has fun.
“I think we have shown the importance of playing together and giving that opportunity to everyone is a big deal,” she said.