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St. Louis area mom’s nonprofit is making playgrounds inclusive for all kids

In 2007, after hundreds of phone calls, handshakes and fundraisers, Mackay turned an empty lot in Lake St. Louis, into a wonderland now known as Zachary's Playground

LAKE SAINT LOUIS, Mo. — At Jake's "Field of Dreams" playground in Wentzville, kids don't need the latest technology to press the play button.

"The spirit of Jake comes alive when I'm here. I can, I can almost feel his presence," said Jim Vollmer.

Jake's Field of Dreams was named for Jim's son, Jake, who was just 19 when he died of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

"And we do miss him dearly," Vollmer said. "And the playground just brings back his spirit a little bit."

This playground was built not with hammer and nails but with compassion and conviction.

"The whole idea is to get kids with and without disabilities to play together," said Natalie Mackay.

Mackay is the Executive Director and founder of Unlimited Play, which constructs universally accessible playgrounds.

The nonprofit started because Mackay was having a hard time getting playtime for her son Zachary, who was born with a rare nervous system disorder.

"He woke up happy every single morning and he had an adventurous spirit," Mackay said.

In 2007, after hundreds of phone calls, handshakes and fundraisers, Mackay turned an empty lot in Lake St. Louis, into a wonderland now known as Zachary's Playground.

It was supposed to be the end of her efforts but it was just the beginning.

"I woke up to email after email from families just like mine," Mackay said. "They asked me to continue that their children deserve the chance to play and would I help them?"

Unlimited Play has now designed and built more than 80 playgrounds all over North America.

Their next project will be on the grounds of St. John's Evangelical United Church of Christ in south St. Louis.

"It will be available to anybody and anywhere," explained Pastor Debby Harness. "It's open to anybody. It's not just for the church."

It will be called Logan's Community Playground, named for Logan Zielinski who was only 12 when he died after a car accident.

"Logan was so full of joy. He was funny. He was kind," said Sherry Ruhl, the Chairperson of the fundraising effort.

Logan will never know the kids who will play there, but they'll know him.

"It'll be wonderful," said his grandmother, Judy Zelinski. "I mean, it'll make him live on forever."

Natalie Mackay's goal is to make everybody feel like a somebody and her mission continues, even though she lost her beloved Zachary a little more than a year ago.

"His legacy and what these playgrounds give back to families has given me even more desire to continue to provide this opportunity to continue to build communities around the idea of inclusiveness," she told us.

Natalie Mackay and Unlimited Play, showing us all that when it comes to our kids, there should be no limitations for fun.

To learn more about Unlimited Play and its upcoming projects, visit their website by clicking here.

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