Vine Grove rallies around plan for special-needs playground

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‘I just wanted a place where everyone could play’

By Amber Coulter

The community has embraced the vision of a local girl who thinks all children should have a place to play, including those with disabilities.

Rachel Ritchie, a third-grader at Vine Grove Elementary School, and her father recommended to the Vine Grove City Council earlier this week a committee be set up to make sure efforts to acquire playground equipment that can be used by children who are disabled aren’t redundant.

Rachel first approached council members in February saying she has a friend who is disabled and they can’t play together at area parks. She and her parents are leading an effort to raise an estimated $20,000 to make Optimist Park on Knox Avenue accessible to all children.

Rachel is calling it the Fun for Everyone Park.

Vine Grove Police Chief Kenny Mattingly offered to serve on the committee, and some council members are expected to join.

Rachel’s mother, Julie Ritchie, supports the effort her daughter is so passionate about.

“I’m just proud that I am her mom,” she said. “It’s very humbling.”

The project is already receiving support from the city and area businesses.

The Vine Grove Fire Department plans to set up a road block to accept donations March 30.

During Mayberry Days later this year, Rachel is planning to sell crafts she made with friends to benefit the playground. The city is planning to have a dunking booth and an auction during the event to raise money for the project.

There also is a place on the city’s website where donations can be made.

Some local businesses have made donations to the project, and Snappy Tomato in Vine Grove has pledged to donate $1.25 of every pizza ordered through the end of April when the customer mentions Rachel or her effort.

Julie Ritchie said she is surprised by how much the community has embraced the idea.

This kind of progress could only happen in a community such as Vine Grove, she said.

“I’m just amazed at how much support it has gotten,” she said.

Rachel’s family also has reached out to representatives of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

Julie Ritchie said Rachel can’t get used to all the praise and attention her effort has gotten her.

“She’s overwhelmed,” she said. “She keeps saying, ‘I just wanted a playground. I just wanted a place where everyone could play.’”

For more information about the project, go to the Facebook page “Rachel’s Fun For Everyone Project.”

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.