By JONECE DUNIGAN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- The innocent sounds of children's laughter will be ringing throughout the city of Hannibal because of a special gift from some community benefactors.
The YMCA of Hannibal unveiled a 4,800-square-foot playground on Friday morning that Pete Friesen, executive director of the Y in Hannibal, says is available for the whole community, not just Y members.
"We want everyone to come on out and enjoy our area so that one day, they can get to enjoy the rest of our facilities -- especially when it gets cold during the winter months," Friesen said.
The playground became possible because of a $100,000 donation from Jared Coons, a former lifeguard and swimming instructor who serving in the military. Coons' gift came around the time when the Y's day care program was pushing 100 kids, and program director Summer Page asked for an outside playground so the kids would have more room to play.
Friesen believed the idea was a good way to use the gift to help the community.
"We wanted to do something with this gift that would support the kids now," he said.
Friesen is happy that all kids will be playing in the park. He is asking the adults to help keep trouble to a minimum.
"We don't want the older kids coming down and abusing it, so we would like the adults of the community to help police it," Friesen said.
The Y Men's Club also had its hand in the project by pledging $60,000 of the proceeds it collects from hosting the mud volleyball and Down by the River events during the summer.
The Shine a Light on Autism organization in Hannibal helped raised funds for special needs equipment, such as wheelchair accessible swings, ramps and elevated sandboxes. J.R. Bareis, vice president of the YMCA board, believes that having this equipment makes the park more unique.
"It's really cool because the kids don't know the difference of whether their friend is disabled or not. Everyone has the opportunity to the play, and that's a neat thing to have," Bareis said.
YMCA officials are happy that Coons can see what came of his donation before he is deployed to Okinawa, Japan. Coons' father and grandfather have donated to the Y in the past.
"None of this would be possible without him, and I am extremely pleased to have him on board," Bareis said.