Photo of Melaina
Photography by Carrie Perez

Our Inspiration:  
Melaina’s Magical Playland was inspired by the daughter of Jeff and Andrea Cunningham. Melaina Cunningham was a vibrant and spunky 3-year- old who didn’t let a disease like Nemaline Myopathy diminish her spirit. Even though she had some physical limitations, she still wanted the adventure that comes to a child through a playground. Unfortunately, most average playgrounds in the city in which she lived were geared toward children without any limitations and, therefore, made it very challenging for Melaina and others with special needs to use them. As a result of these circumstances, Jeff and Andrea, along with the assistance of State Representative, Scott Lipke, vowed to address this need by organizing a committee with the hope of building a playground that doesn’t limit itself to any individual, no matter their disability. They are determined to get an all-inclusive and fully-accessible playground built in Cape Girardeau County. This playground would be available to all children and adults, but would not exclude anyone because of a disability. Melaina Cunningham was a joy and gift in the lives of Jeff and Andrea. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to stay here with them long enough to see the playground built. However, her spirit and inspiration will hopefully live on in a small piece of land set aside to bring everyone together and in a place where lifetime friendships begin. Click here to visit Melaina's Caringbridge website.


Playground News Story:

Melaina Cunningham and Friends Park Fund, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that was established in 2009 with a goal of building an all-inclusive and fully-accessible playground in Cape Girardeau County. This area and its surrounding counties is home to many children and adults with disabilities, and currently there is no public playground that accommodates for these special needs within nearly 100 miles. Children and adults with disabilities need to play, socialize, and engage in physical activity just like anyone else. A common misconception of this playground, however, is that it is only for those with special needs. In fact, Melaina’s Magical Playland would be a place where people of all abilities are encouraged to play and interact together side by side. The playground would include integrated activities for all ages and ability levels. Simply put, this is a playground for EVERYONE!!


Examples of special features that make Melaina’s Magical Playland All-Inclusive and Accessible:

  • Flat, rubber safety surfacing other than mulch or pea-gravel, allowing for easier access for those using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility challenges. 
  • Swings with extra back and arm support 
  • Ramping system to allow access to higher elements of the play structure 
  • Variety of activity play panels, utilizing some Braille or other sensory components 
  • Shade structures/awnings throughout the area 
  • Metal slides for users of cochlear implant devices
  • Handicapped accessible restrooms and parking
  • Safety fencing
  • Plus more!
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