After 5 years, teen's dream to build playground for kids with disabilities almost a reality
Rachel Ritchie has spent the last five years working to build a playground for kids regardless of their abilities. She's now inviting the community to help with the finishing touches.
VINE GROVE, Ky. (WDRB) -- At just 9 years old, Rachel Ritchie had the idea to create a playground for kids no matter their ability. Nearly five years later, her dream is about to come true.
A gravel lot at Optimist Park in Vine Grove, Kentucky might not look like much, but to the now 13-year-old Ritchie it looks like a dream come true. It's a vision she had nearly five years ago that she refused to take look away from.
"I would just have to refocus myself and keep pushing forward, because I know how important this is to me," said Ritchie.
At 9 years old, Ritchie decided her town needed a playground for all kids, regardless of their abilities.
"I saw disabled children not being able to play on the playground like I could, and I thought it wasn't fair," she said.
Instead of brushing her off, her dad arranged for a meeting with city leaders. They gave her a plot in a city park and "Rachel's Fun for Everyone Project" was born. Then the real work began. Over the years she's sold t-shirts, held fundraisers, and given countless presentations to see her vision become a reality.
"I don't even really think about it anymore," Ritchie said. "Oh yeah I'll talk to you about it."
She continued to earn money to reach her goal, refusing to give up even when obstacles got in her way. In May of this year, just when she thought everything was in place, Ritchie found out she needed another $10,000 to build a fence around the playground. Once again, her community stepped up. Veterans United Foundation presented her with a $10,000 check on her last day of 7th grade.
"For them to step up and do that, I can't put into words what that means," said Ritchie.
It's that kind of support that's kept Ritchie going all these years. Even when others thought she'd quit, she kept her eye on the prize.
"Yeah, I'm just a kid, but I don't think that should stop me or any other kid from making a difference," she said.
With the last piece of funding in place, the community is invited to help install the playground equipment on July 15 and 16 at Optimist Park.
"I've grown up with this foundation and it's almost surreal that it's finally happening," Ritchie said.
The big idea of a 9-year-old girl will finally come to be, which means a new challenge for the now 13-year-old, who isn't quite sure what she wants to do next.
"I do know whatever I do I want to help people and make a positive influence on my world and community," said Ritchie.
Anyone can attend the community build on July 15 and 16, but organizers ask that you let them know if you plan on coming.
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