Big Walnut Local School District leaders know if they build it, they will come -- but first they need help building it.

The Souders Elementary School PTO is looking for volunteers to help install equipment next month at the accessible and inclusive Souders Community Playground at the school, 4121 Miller-Paul Road, Galena.

The playground will have apparatus that allow disabled children to play with their peers who don't have disabilities. Features include rubber surfaces, ramps, transfer stations, sun protection and a reach-play panel, said Amy Ranalli, a Big Walnut resident and one of the project's organizers.

Transfer stations allow children in wheelchairs to use equipment such as slides that typically is accessed via ladders or stairs.

Reach-play panels are boards that may feature games, steering wheels, periscopes or other devices, accessible to all.

The playground site is being developed with an eye to allowing children from any area to use it when school is not in session, Ranalli said.

Fundraising for the project of the Souders PTO has netted more than $130,000 for the purchase of Little Tikes playground equipment from Bluegrass Recreational Products of Danville, Kentucky, Ranalli said.

A Bluegrass Recreational representative will be on-site to supervise volunteers for the equipment installation, which will take place during spring break, March 23-31, she said.

Using volunteers will allow the PTO to save the cost of installation, which would have been 25 percent of the total cost, Ranalli said. As a result, all of the donated money can be used for equipment, she said.

Members of the recently organized Sunbury Big Walnut Kiwanis Club will help recruit and organize volunteers, Ranalli said, and will provide food and beverages during the week.

"The creation of the Souders Community Playground coincided perfectly with the birth of our Kiwanis Club," said Kiwanis secretary Jim Janosik.

"Our members excitedly jumped on board to help with recruiting and organizing volunteers from the community, and will also help nourish the volunteers as they construct the playground next month," he said. "Playground projects, especially inclusive ones, are a big focus of Kiwanis clubs the world over."

Ranalli said volunteers will be organized into shifts. Six to eight volunteers will be needed in each of the project's opening days, increasing to 16 a day before it's finished, she said.

No volunteers will be turned away, Ranalli said.

"We'll find something for everybody to do," she said.

Souders PTO President Shannon Buckler said working with neighbors to build the playground will be "an incredibly rewarding experience that will cultivate community pride and a sense of ownership in the playground."

The equipment is designed to be fun and challenging for both typical and disabled children, Ranalli said. When the children play together, she said, they understand "they are more similar than different."

She said she expects the playground to see a lot of use, particularly in the summer and fall, and when the Big Walnut Soccer Association holds events next to the school.

Ranalli said one of the children using the playground will be her 5-year-old son, Marco, who was born without muscles in his arms and hands.

"A lot of people gave a lot of time and money for the playground," she said. "I'll be eternally appreciative. Small towns are incredible."

She said volunteers can register at the Souders PTO website, ptosouders.com. Clicking on "new playground updates" opens another page with a sign-up link. Volunteers also may email the Kiwanis Club at sbwkiwanis@gmail.com.

Those who sign up will be contacted later about scheduling a shift (or more) at the site, Ranalli said.

Janosik said the Kiwanis Club meets at noon the second Tuesday of each month at Big Walnut Grill, 175 state Route 3, and at 6:30 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Sunbury Big Walnut Chamber of Commerce, 39 E. Granville St.

"Our goal in bringing Kiwanis to Sunbury Big Walnut is to provide civic-minded adults the opportunity to volunteer together to help kids in the community in meaningful and hands-on ways," he said.

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