Nic Arning is part of a committee raising funds for a universal playground to be built at Lakeshore Park in memory of 3-year-old Knoxville Youth Sports tee-ball player Hank Rappe. Hank, the son of Dr. Matt and Brandy Rappe, passed away in his sleep April 5, two nights before his very first tee-ball game at KYS.
How did the idea for the playground come about?
I will not take any credit for the idea. When the little boy, Hank, passed away, his parents' friends wanted to memorialize him and this idea caught on like wildfire. There are an awful lot of doctors contributing. I'm on the board for Knoxville Youth Sports and through it on the board for Knoxville Challenger, which was started 16 years ago to help special-needs kids play baseball. When we heard that this playground was to be "universal"—accessible to every child—we asked the group if we could join in and help. The existing playground behind the KYS office is 20 years old and not accessible to special-needs children. The Hank Rappe Playground would benefit our Challenger League kids as well as any other kid that ever comes to Lakeshore, to play ball or just to walk with their parents.
How was the location selected?
Hank was all set to play in the KYS tee-ball league at Lakeshore. His brother who is two years older plays already and Hank had already gotten his hat and shirt.
Will there be a chance for worker volunteers?
For this particular project, no, we don't have that option. We've already got a contractor, and none of us will do anything in the way of labor. But we can definitely use donations. Every bit earmarked for the Rappe Playground will go straight for that—there's no administrative fee.
When will it break ground?
We're trying to get all the prep work and fundraising done by July 15 if at all possible. That coincides with when we have access to the site we want to bulldoze without disturbing any other games. The playground will have a rubberized surface all over. I'm not sure how you pour that, but you've got to have certain temperatures, and late summer is the right time.
When do you hope to open?
By September or October I imagine,
Will it have any particularly cool features?
Something that is really cool—that young boy loved to swing and we'll make sure we'll have a lot of swings, even for infants and toddlers. That will be a distinguishing feature of this playground. It will have a universal sandbox, and most likely a climbing wall, and slides. But the extra-cool stuff is still in the planning stage. We can't narrow it down until we see how much money we raise. We know that it's going to be a whole lot bigger and better than anything we've got now, and will benefit so many in Hank's memory. He was a very active, energetic, personable little boy and a lot of folks want to do something for him and his parents.
To donate to the Hank Rappe Universal Playground Fund: knoxyouthsports.com/playground-fund.html or by mail to KYS, P.O. Box 10964, Knoxville, TN 37939.