Make-A-Wish recipient wants playground equipment for city

By Nicole Brodzik
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Quinn Larsen, with sisters and parents Amy and Curtis Larsen, are working with the City of Waconia and the Make-A-Wish Foundation to put in new anti-static park equipment in Waconia for children with special needs, like Quinn. (Submitted photo)

Quinn Larsen loves slides.

But as much as he loves them, it’s not easy for Quinn to use a slide.

Quinn has dealt with a number of issues in his young life, which started with a fall out of a two-story window at the age of 5. According to his mom, Amy Larsen, Quinn had a miraculous recovery from the fall, but just six months later was diagnosed with meningitis and hydrocephalus. These conditions cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord as well as water on the brain. It’s caused Quinn to have hearing, vision and cognitive impairments.

The 7-year-old has spent about a third of the last two years of his life in a hospital. But despite all that, Amy Larsen said he’s the same happy, loving kid he was before the fall.

“He was always that kid who loved everybody and wanted everyone to be happy,” she said. “Even without being able to talk to hear, he’s still that kid.”

And he still loves playing at the playground, but the cochlear implant he has that allows Quinn to hear has made that more difficult. The static shock that comes from using most playground slides would break the implant and require expensive, invasive surgery to

Quinn Larsen presents a check to Waconia Mayor Jim Sanborn for new park equpiment. Quinn, 7, has vision, hearing and coginitive impairments that make using regular park equipment, like the slide, a challenge. He and his family chose the new equipment as their wish from Make-A-Wish. (Submitted photo)

replace it. Amy Larsen said when Quinn is allowed to use a slide, they have to be sure four or five other kids have ridden it right before Quinn to alleviate some of that static tension.

So, the family decided they needed an easier way for their son to have fun.

“He loves playgrounds and loves slides,” Amy Larsen said. “We thought it would be awesome to have a park in town with antistatic slides and tubes for kids to crawl through. We know there are other kids who would benefit from this too.”

Quinn’s parents, Amy and Curtis Larsen, have been in contact with Make-A-Wish since November and on March 20 they presented a check for $5,000 on behalf of Make-A-Wish to the City of Waconia to help secure that equipment.

Gary Knudeson has been working with the Make-A-Wish for many years and said this was the first time he’d ever received a philanthropic request.

“It’s a very generous gesture on their part,” Knudeson said. “Most kids just want to go on a trip. This will be great for all kids who have challenges.”

Amy Larsen said she’s not sure what the future holds for her son, but she hopes that Quinn, and other children with special needs, would be able to enjoy the new equipment for a long time.

“With everything he’s gone through, doctors aren’t really sure what will happen,” Amy Larsen said. “When we brought him home from the hospital, he was basically a vegetable. He couldn’t even hold up his own head.”

She said that doctor’s didn’t have a very positive prognosis then, saying he likely would never communicate or move on his own again, but Quinn has exceeded expectations. The vision he once lost, is slowly getting better. He’s learning sign language to help him communicate. On Monday, March 20, he walked into Waconia City Hall and handed a check over to the council to help start his new playground.

The $5,000 is a good first step, but it will likely take more funding to get the equipment in place.

“Any time you put the words ‘special needs’ in front of anything, the prices skyrocket,” Amy Larsen said.

They family is hoping to start a fundraiser to help offset some of the costs and to have the new playground installed by next summer. Anyone looking to donate to the cause can send donations to City of Waconia, Attn: Playground Project, 201 South Vine Street, Waconia, MN 55287 or credit card donations can be made my calling Waconia City Hall at 952-442-2184.