The children’s laughter is lively and catching as they try out a new piece of playground equipment at Ridgeview Elementary that has a distinctly nautical theme.
They move from one end of the plastic “pirate ship” to another to simulate the way a boat sways when it’s in the water. They pretend they’re at sea, where their vivid imaginations cast them to new adventures they otherwise would never have gone.
Ridgeview’s classrooms and hallways may run a bit quieter during the summer months, but that’s not the case with the school’s playground, which daily draws flocks of children to its swings, slides and monkey bars. Now, the “ship” supplies them with one more reason to create thrilling seafaring memories.
“The students who go here often introduce the parents to the playground,” said Susan Varga, early childhood special education teacher. “This is quite a busy playground for the community during the summer.”
In Mason’s Memory
The ship was dedicated in memory of Nicole and Ryan Kober’s son, Mason John, who passed away unexpectedly in 2011 at age 3. He was a student at the district’s Early Childhood Special Education program.
Mason’s parents said their goal was to reaffirm the joy his life brought to them and will continue to on the playground.
“It’s heartwarming to have something physical here that children will enjoy and know this is here because of how special Mason was,” Nicole Kober said. “The ship sways. He would have enjoyed anything that had movement.”
Superintendent Gordie Nickels told those who gathered for the dedication that the ship “will serve as a reminder to all of us on the impact this little guy had on us. To Ryan and Nicole I thank you for the efforts that went into raising money for this project. It is my hope and prayer that seeing children play on this structure for years to come will bring peace and joy to your heart.”
Special Education Director Teresa Boyer said the playground ship is symbolic of how to respond to life’s rough waters.
“This ship is sturdy,” Boyer said. “A ship gets us through life’s rough seas. This ship is not just a great piece of playground equipment, it will be the vessel that transports our memories.”
Ryan and Nicole have three other children: Mya, 6, and fraternal twins Wesley and Natalie, 2.
One day, Wesley and Natalie will be enrolled at Ridgeview, Nicole said. They’ll laugh and enjoy themselves at the playground along with their classmates, including the ship that sways. And they’ll read the sign posted in front of it that’s dedicated to their brother.
“I think it would be pretty cool, having something here that says, ‘This is my big brother.’ That’s pretty special,” Nicole said.