Never Say Never Playland looks to bring all-inclusive playground to Lake Geneva

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LAKE GENEVA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Like many businesses and organizations, Never Say Never Playland faced its fair share of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Everything came to a standstill for about a year or two years," said Dusti Grenus, founder of the non-profit. "Never say never. This is going to be built. One way or another, it's going to be built."

The 'This' that Grenus is referring to is a 13,000 square-foot all-inclusive playground that has been approved to be built right in the heart of Veteran's Park. It's a big project that requires a big check.

"The goal is $610,000 to be able to purchase all the equipment and start building," Grenus said. "We need about two-thousand volunteers to come in and it's going to take about seven days to build."

The inspiration comes from her now 22-year-old daughter, Kameron. She has cerebral palsy and Grenus says it makes finding parks where her daughter can enjoy herself and have fun a challenge.

"One of her favorite things to do is swing, and most playgrounds have sling seats, and she cannot sit on that and hold herself up. She falls off," Grenus said. "All kids need to play. It's not just about my daughter or her friends that are disabled. It's about families coming together, kids coming together, siblings that need to be able to play at the same place. Opening their hearts and minds to the idea of inclusion."

So far, the organization has raised around $283,000 of the necessary funds, including roughly $43,000 raised by the Mr. Lake Geneva Pageant. The pageant was recently hosted by Lakes Area Lifeway and featured ten well-known men in the Lake Geneva community. It was won by Lake Geneva Police Sgt. Dan Derrick.

"This community has been great to me, so if we can give back a little bit to try and get this playground built for kids that can't use a regular playground, let's see if we can get it built," said Scott Hodkiewicz, a local veterinarian that participated in the pageant. "We really had fun and raised a lot of money for a great cause."

"Once people see this project, they're like, 'I've never heard of this thing. I want to be a part of it,'" said Scott Hall, a board member for Never Say Never Playland. "We've had some pretty good momentum going the last six to eight months."

Grenus and her team are hopeful the momentum will continue. A wine walk will be hosted May 22 with proceeds going toward the playground.

Beth Tumas owns The Bottle Shop in Lake Geneva and says supporting the cause was an easy decision to make.

"After the pandemic and during the pandemic, they had a difficult time keeping their momentum," Tumas said. "The longer we take to make the money, the longer it's going to be before these kids get to play on the playground."

While still a long way to go, Grenus is optimistic about the momentum and attention the playground is receiving. As for completion, she says kids of all abilities may have the chance to swing, slide and play sooner than they might think.

"We can have it by fall, hopefully, if we get all the money in," Grenus said, admitting she's excited to bring her daughter to the park the day it is complete. "I'll be a little speechless. Probably a little teary eyed, but it will be exciting to have her in her community being able to play."

Any individuals or organization looking to donate to the Never Say Never Playland are encouraged to visit the organization's website.

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