Live United: Giving to be inclusive

Published 8:45 pm Friday, June 17, 2022

Live United by Erin Haag

My daughter has been trying to decide what to do with her Share money from her allowance. Her favorite nonprofit is the Freeborn County Historical Museum, and she has built up a relationship with Miss Stephanie, the executive director there. She’s very proud of the fact that her contributions helped repair the little white church in the village. So now she’s ready to share again, and she’s been debating. Does she pick a new cause? Give to her favorite cause? She just couldn’t make up her mind and has been debating this for weeks now.

Erin Haag

My children and I were downtown for Eddie Cochran weekend. On our bucket list was a stop at the Daybreakers Kiwanis tent to pick up some fresh kettle corn popcorn. My daughter was reading a sign they had on their table about the All Inclusive Playground. With the widest eyes, she said, “Mama! Did you know we’re getting a new playground?!” She was so excited at the idea of a new playground to explore. The Kiwanis members explained to her about the inclusiveness of the playground, and how they have a matching grant from United Way, and their goal to raise funds for the playground. 

Well, with young children and fresh popcorn and a beautiful day, you can’t wait until you get home to have a snack. They found an out-of-the-way spot and dug right into that bag of popcorn, eating half the bag. After a while, my daughter asked me if she could donate to the jar she saw for the All Inclusive Playground. I told her it was her decision. For the first time in weeks, she was decisive and said, “This is it, Mama. This is what I want to do.” My son, never wanting to be left out of anything, decided that is what he wanted to do as well. He doesn’t agonize over those decisions as much as she does. 

Later that evening, my daughter started talking about some of her friends. She talked about her friend that has seizures and must be careful on higher equipment in case she falls and how the new playground will have rubber to protect that. She talked about the adults in her life with arthritis or walk with a cane, and how this playground might help. My son remembered the two weeks we spent at the Ronald McDonald House in 2019, and how he helped his friend climb the playground steps because she might fall. He had to be extra careful with her or she could get really hurt, and she didn’t speak English, but Maria’s mama trusted Ethan to help her at the top. He told me, “I was helping her Mama, but this one would be easier right? Marta could come too?” Maria’s sister Marta is in a wheelchair. 

Hearing my children pick up so quickly all the reasons why an all-inclusive playground is important to our community was very emotional to me. I realized I had done a disservice by not talking about it more. Talk to your kids about being inclusive. Let them know what efforts are being made, and why it’s important. The more community conversations we have with people — of all generations — the more support we’ll get. 

My daughter lost her tooth this week. She decided to hide her tooth to bribe the tooth fairy into revealing secrets. My husband and I saw the slippery slope this was going down, and we reminded her that if she didn’t leave her tooth, then no tooth fairy money. She said, “That’s OK, I don’t need any money right now.” Her daddy reminded her that she does have a college fund, and that could use the tooth fairy money. Her brother piped up and said, “yeah, or you could do a happy dollar and give more to the playground.”

If you’re not familiar with that, the Kiwanis have Happy Dollars at their meetings. You donate a dollar and share something good — a brag, a funny story, whatever you want to share. If you want to complain, it’s $5. Having gone with me to do a presentation once, the kids both loved the idea of Happy Dollars. Well, that’s what she did. She wrote a note, “Dear Kiwanis. Here is my Happy Doller. I lost my tooth at Walmart!” 

To learn more about the All Inclusive Playground, visit alltogetheralbertlea.com or find them on Facebook under All Together Albert Lea Inclusive Playground. To learn about events where the Daybreakers Kiwanis will be popping popcorn and supporting area events, follow their social media Facebook page or call 507-369-6929. As always, you can contact our office at 507-373-8670 to learn more about the various programs and events happening. 

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.