When children climb, swing and slide on the new playground equipment at Alcott Park in Buffalo Grove, their laughter and excitement will embody the memory of a little girl who loved the park.
On Saturday, the Buffalo Grove Park District dedicated two playgrounds, one replacing the playground that was destroyed by an arson fire in late 2010 and another memorializing Lexi Kazian, who was born with severe brain damage in 2002. She died in 2004 from complications related to pneumonia.
A not-for-profit organization in her name, the Lexi Kazian Foundation -- Helping from Heaven, contributed more than $32,000 toward construction of a fully accessible play area adjacent to the main playground. Lexi's parents, Kris and Kristy Kazian of Libertyville, presented the park district with a check and were on hand for the memorial's unveiling.
Initially, the Kazian family approached the district to help rebuild the 3-year-old handicapped accessible playground, which was destroyed by an arson fire in November 2010. Four 14-year-old juveniles were charged with setting fire to debris in a sewer grate, which spread to the play equipment.
Insurance covered the repair expenses of more than $80,000, so the park district and foundation came up with the idea to instead replace old equipment for preschool age children that was in an area at the north end of the park and that was not accessible for children with special needs.
Kristy Kazian grew up about three blocks from the park and played there herself as a child. When she had a disabled child, she loved taking her to the park but was struck by the difficulties Lexi encountered.
"Every time Kristy tried to take Lexi to the park, she couldn't push her in the swing or down the slide because Lexi didn't have control and the swings didn't have support," Kris Kazian said. "It has been our mission to build parks that kids of all abilities can enjoy."
The Lexi Kazian Foundation has supported construction of accessible playgrounds in Illinois, Wisconsin and Georgia.
At Alcott Park, 530 Bernard Drive, the playground now has swings with high bucketlike seats with a harness, wheelchair accessible equipment and a rubberized ground material.
"I am sure Lexi is very proud," Kris Kazian said.
While the dedication is only being held now, a huge outpouring of support from local residents and companies enabled the district to replace equipment in time for the summer months, officials said.
"It was critical to get the playground built quickly," said Rick Draznier, president of the park district board. "It is heavily used by neighborhood children and our preschool and early childhood education students. Thanks to a lot of quick support, the building was completed in May."