On the bluffs of the Mississippi River in St. Paul, students ages five through 18 attend Bridge View School. Each pupil has serious developmental disabilities.
Six-year-old Charlie Drayton is one of them. He's the middle child of Chuck and Teagan and has both Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Just because Charlie doesn't talk and requires either a walker or a wheelchair to get around doesn't mean the youngster doesn't like to play.
And like any great dad, Chuck Drayton wants to make sure his boy is afforded every opportunity to get outside, smile, and sweat.
Chuck's running for Charlie and every other kid with special needs this weekend. For 24 hours, starting at 8 a.m. Saturday at Fort Snelling State Park, Chuck's gonna pound the ground. His goal is to run 100 miles, but the larger goal is to raise at least $10,000 to help build a new playground at Bridge View for Charlie and his peers.
"Earlier this year, I did a 50-mile trail run and about two weeks later did a marathon in Eau Claire so I feel pretty good about doing 100 miles in one day," Chuck says. "It's not that daunting when you think how you're doing it for kids. I wish they could run ten yards. That's motivation."
Bridge View's planned playground is part of a larger project. There's a baseball field in the works that'll be equipped with smooth surfaces to accommodate wheelchaired batters and base stealers. The playground will be attached to the Miracle League baseball diamond, and will feature equipment that's lower to the ground and accessible to all comers.
Such an ambitious undertaking doesn't come cheap, though. The ball field and playground have an aggregate price tag of around $215,000. Seeing how Bridge View is part of St. Paul Public Schools, which currently is dealing with a $15 million deficit, the onus to raise capital falls on private sector shoulders.
"If a child is in a wheelchair or can't talk that doesn't mean they still don't look forward to recess," says Chuck. "This playground will provide not just the kids at Bridge View, but every child with special needs the opportunity to participate, to play, to live."