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News Release

Pirnie Inclusive Playground in Ryder Park Set to Break Ground July 24 

Vision of Occupational Therapy Assistant Students at Central Community College Fully Funded by Community, Business Donors

GRAND ISLAND, Neb.—The Pirnie Inclusive Playground in Grand Island's Ryder Park will take one step closer to becoming a reality with a groundbreaking ceremony on July 24. The event will take place at 10 a.m. at Ryder Park, located off the Hwy. 281 corridor.

The Pirnie Inclusive Playground offers a multigenerational, inclusive play destination that encourages play for everyone. Inclusive playgrounds provide opportunities for varying skill levels and challenges for individuals coming to play, while encouraging play amongst all.

The groundbreaking ceremony will feature: Mayor Roger Steele; project co-chairs, Joe & Julie Vavricek and Katie & Ryan Soto; Central Community College (CCC) Occupational Therapy Assistant Alum Bryan Klinginsmith; CCC representatives Dr. Matt Gotschall, college president, and Dr. Marcie Kemnitz, Grand Island campus president; and Traci Skalberg, CCC Foundation executive director.

The playground, which was conceived by students in the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Central Community College, reached its fundraising goal in May of 2023. The funding was provided by donations from local citizens and area businesses, including a lead gift of $200,000 from Tom and Sue Pirnie.

Medica helped the fundraising effort cross the finish line with a $50,000 donation.

"Medica is delighted to be involved in the Pirnie Inclusive Playground," said Pat Bourne, Medica Market Leader for Nebraska. "Play is not only healthful, but playing together in an environment that provides enjoyment for all regardless of ability gives us an opportunity to see one another for who we really are."

Said Traci Skalberg from the Central Community College Foundation: "We are so thankful that so many individuals and businesses were able to help us fully fund this community asset. We couldn't have done it without them and the many other gracious donors who value creating a place for inclusive play."

Other donors over $50,000 include: Tom and Sue Pirnie, Robert B. Daugherty Foundation, Healthy Blue Nebraska, Fighter Jett, Greater Grand Island Community Foundation, Peter Kiewit Foundation, Medica, Stanley L. Urwiller Foundation and Wolbach Charitable Foundation.

Construction on the Pirnie Inclusive Playground will begin soon after the groundbreaking. It is expected to take two to three months for completion. A community-wide celebration and ribbon-cutting will be scheduled for this fall. The City of Grand Island Parks and Recreation Department will manage the playground.

About the Pirnie Inclusive Playground Project (www.cccneb.edu/ryderpark)

During the spring semester of 2021, Central Community College students in the Occupational Therapy Assistant program were challenged to design a community project that would increase the mobility and quality of life for individuals who are unable to participate fully in daily activities due to physical or psychological limitations.

Their class project soon took a life of its own as they used their occupational therapy concepts to stimulate physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and sensory skills into the design of a 27,000- square-foot community playground.

The class presented their idea to a group of community leaders and were encouraged to pursue this dream for Grand Island's youngest residents as well as all of those who are young at heart.

The class added partners to the project, including the Central Community College Foundation, the City of Grand Island, and the Greater Grand Island Community Foundation.

The massive playground will be located at Ryder Park just West of the baseball diamond. It will offer play experiences for three stages of development, including spaces designed specifically for children ages 2-5, 5-11 and 12 on up. Ziplines, sensory equipment, obstacle courses, and inclusive entry equipment are just some of the apparatuses available on the playground, which will span half the length of a football field. A detailed view of the equipment can be found online at cccneb.edu/ryderpark.

About Medica

Medica (www.medica.com) is a health plan headquartered in Minnesota. The company serves communities by providing health care coverage and related services in the employer, individual, Medicaid and Medicare markets. It operates in Minnesota, Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Medica's vision is to be trusted in the community for our unwavering commitment to high quality, affordable health care.

About the Central Community College Foundation

The Central Community College Foundation (www.cccneb.edu/foundation) is a separate and distinct, non-profit organization serving the College, its students, staff and communities across the 25-county service area. The Foundation works to advance opportunities for quality educational services in Nebraska-based institutions. The Foundation's vision is to improve quality of life by enhancing financial support of students and through collaborative relationships that impact College programs and workforce needs.