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Playground Dedicated in Memory of Student

Elda Wilsford holds a framed photograph for her granddaughter Claire Sprunger, 7, as her twin brother Jack, 7, runs around a memorial placed outside of a playground built in honor of their brother Sam at Storer Elementary in Muncie, Ind.. Sam passed away in 2006.
Photo Credit: Muncie (Ind.) Star Press

The plastic slide in Sam’s Place is extra wide, with built-in bumps to add to the thrill of the descent.

Sam Sprunger, for whom the colorful blue-and-yellow playground in which this slide is anchored is named, would have liked that.

“We could have gone down the slide with him,” said his mother, Kim Sprunger.”He would have felt very honored about that.”

She was smiling warmly against a bitterly cold wind Monday, as this playground for special needs students behind Storer Elementary School in Muncie, Ind. was dedicated to her son’s memory.

The 7-year-old boy died Feb. 15, 2006, of respiratory distress syndrome. The move to name the planned playground after him was launched shortly after his death by teacher Felicia Gray’s first-graders.

Funds from Muncie Community Schools and Storer students paid for the playground.

At its entrance, a sign announces it is Sam’s Place. It is set in a small garden designed by landscape architect Susan Tomizawa. Jason Brooks of Jay Crew Landscaping donated Labor and materials to create the playground.

While the Sprunger family -- including Sam’s father, Kurt, and Sam’s siblings, Jack and Claire -- looked on at the dedication, Storer Principal Ingrid Grubb noted that, “it is our hope that in some small way we have made the loss of him a little more bearable.”

The word from his mother: They had.

“He lives on through the use of this playground,” she said, after addressing scores of Sam’s fellow students and school personnel, adding that the family took comfort in the facility and how it was named. “I really think this illustrates something about the students here.”

She added that she appreciated the playground’s bright colors and the stout fencing to keep the kids who use it safe and secure, noting, “I hope that this is another step for the community in acceptance of people with disabilities.”

Being there reminded her of the innocence of children, she said, and of how Sam’s classmates accepted him unconditionally.

“I feel a huge presence of Sam,” Kim added, smiling.

Source: Muncie (Ind.) Star Press

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December 7, 2019, 3:46 am PDT

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