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Kids and caretakers enjoy All Children's new playground — and a visit from Ann Romney

Noah Morano, 8, checks out the sandbox Wednesday as other kids play near him during the unveiling of a new therapeutic playground at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. Ann Romney attended with her 12 grandchildren and spoke briefly.

LEAH MILLIS | Times

Noah Morano, 8, checks out the sandbox Wednesday as other kids play near him during the unveiling of a new therapeutic playground at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. Ann Romney attended with her 12 grandchildren and spoke briefly.

ST. PETERSBURG

Seth Morano had a few words of advice for the lady in a bright pink dress and a triple strand of pearls.

"Let yourself shine," the 11-year-old told Ann Romney as she arrived Wednesday morning at All Children's Hospital, fresh off her nationally televised speech the night before at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a playground intended as a therapeutic tool, the wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney credited Seth, who receives therapy at the hospital, for a powerful message.

"We're all limited," Ann Romney said. "We may not know how limited we all are, but we all have our own limits, and our own disabilities — and our own issues that we may struggling with," she said. "They may not be physical, but remembering to go to the joy is such an important lesson."

And there is no place like a playground for children to find joy.

The Credit Union National Association, the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and National Journal Group partnered to donate the facility as "leave behind'' project to commemorate the RNC.

Its unusual features include two things that Seth, who mostly uses a wheelchair, asked for — a swing for children with special needs and a bike trail for his three-wheeler.

"It's like a normal playground," said Seth, who comes to All Children's from his home in Sarasota for therapy to mitigate health issues including cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder.

It may be even better than a traditional playground. The rock climbing wall, airplane bouncer and water-sand table — among other features — were instant hits with Mrs. Romney's 12 grandchildren, ages 3 to 11, accompanying her on the brief campaign stop.

Eleven-year-old Chloe Romney called the local children who will be using the playground in the future "really lucky."

"It's a really fun playground," she said, "and most hospitals don't have one."

Indeed, All Children's had been without one since moving into a new facility almost two years ago. And it has been many more years, officials noted, since the hospital had a play area designed specifically for therapy.

In addition to the equipment that will help children build strength and coordination, therapists expect to use the playground for speech, eating and sensory development.

"We can do picnics in the park," said Cara Drumm, a speech therapist working with 15-month-old Jack Cole, who has Down's Syndrome. The St. Petersburg boy was born prematurely and spent almost three months in neonatal intensive care.

For example, Drumm noted, the short walk from the adjacent outpatient therapy center offers the chance to practice opening and closing doors, and pressing elevator buttons.

And for Jack's language development, play can be work in disguise.

"Instead of seeing pictures of things," said mother Danielle Cole, "he'll actually be able to do 'up,' 'down,' 'swing,' 'climb.' "

Among the lessons for Jack, Seth and the other children at Wednesday's dedication ceremony — in politics, there's a lot of smiling for photos. But it's not hard to look happy on a playground.

Kids and caretakers enjoy All Children's new playground — and a visit from Ann Romney 08/29/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 9:58pm]
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