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Mission Of Love: Rosa Parks Unveils Inclusive Playground

Mark Flores

When students at Lexington’s Rosa Parks Elementary headed back to school this week, they were greeted by a new playground. But the recently-installed equipment has one new feature that sets it apart from others in the community.

Three years ago Rosa Parks parent Mark Flores noticed the playground left his son, who uses a walker to get around, with few options during recess.

"What used to happen was the kids with special needs who couldn't access the equipment would have to sit on the sidelines and then their friends would have to make a choice. Do I go play with the rest of the able-bodied kids on the equipment or do I go hang out with my friend who has special needs that can't get to that equipment?" he says.

So Flores embarked on what he calls a “mission of love,” helping pool funds – from a $10,000 Christopher Reeve Foundation grant to lemonade stand money – in an effort to create a more fun space where no one was left out.

"I heard stories of kids basically collecting money and putting it in their piggy banks and then turning it over to the playground fund," he remembers.

The result is a brand new $60,000 playground, complete with ramps and a special surface to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs.

"It's important for the development of the children. It's important for everybody, whether or not you're special needs or able-bodied An atmosphere of inclusion is frankly beneficial to all students," he says.

Flores will part of the group cutting the ribbon Friday at 6 p.m. He says he hopes the move spurs other schools and parks planners to consider following suit.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.