Photos by Denise Kinder Over 200 students from St. Paul Lutheran School walked to raise money for Melaina’s Magical Playground during Lutheran Schools Week.
Layton Lipke and Caleb Gast donate some of their change to help build Melaina’s Magical Playground.
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St. Paul students walk for Melaina's Playground

by Denise Kinder Staff Reporter

Preschool through third graders at St. Paul Lutheran School collected pledges for the past  month to help Melaina’s Magical Playground become another step closer to completion.

St. Paul Kindergarten teacher Lisa White helped organize the event. “We decided to donate to Melaina’s Magical Playground.”

The school has been collecting coins throughout the entire school year to donate for the playground as well.  Each fall, St. Paul does a service project, and in honor of Lutheran School Week, the school decided to have the walk-a-thon to make a big event during the week.

Over 200 St. Paul students collected pledges and walked for Melaina’s Magical Playground.

White decided to ask Jennifer Icaza-Gast to help organize the walk-a-thon since she had done one before with the Student Santas’ Program at Southeast Missouri State University.

The Student Santas hosted St. Paul’s walk-a-thon. They helped warm the students up before their big walk when arriving to the Osage Center in Cape Girardeau.

“I wanted to help because it’s such a great cause,” Icaza-Gast said. “It’s also another good way to get the SEMO students involved with kids in another way.”

Also helping with the walk-a-thon was COMM-rades of Southeast Missouri State University, SEMO cycling team,  the Cape Evening Optimist donated all the shirts, and KGMO radio to keep the students energized during their walk.

Melaina’s Magical Playground is named in memory of Jeff and Andrea Cunning-ham's daughter, Melaina, a 3-year-old who died of complications from pneumonia last March. Melaina had suffered from nemaline myopathy, a disease that causes low muscle tone.

Proposed to be built at Cape County Park North, the playground will have equipment for people of all abilities and ages.

“Anything to get children with and without disabilities to play together is awesome,” Icaza-Gast said.

Donations to the playground may be made by mailing a check to Melaina Cunningham and Friends Park Fund, P.O. Box 211, Cape Girardeau, MO 63703.

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