The Minot Area Community Foundation and its Magic Smiles all-abilities playground in Oak Park will be featured in the March issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, as the grand prize winner of the Vera Bradley "Be Colorful" contest. The foundation received $10,000.
The contest recognizes a non-profit organization and its efforts to improve or benefit a community.
Ken Kitzman, president of the Minot Area Community Foundation, said his wife, Judi, saw the contest and wanted to send in a write-up about the Magic Smiles playground. She submitted the information in early August.
Submitted Photo - - Partners in the Magic Smiles playground’s creation are pictured. Back row, from left, are Brent Mattson, Bremer Impact Fund; Mylan Sand, Dakota Fence; Timothy Mihalick, Roger & Delores Odell Fund adviser; Ken Kitzman, president of the Minot Area Community Foundation; Ron Merritt, Minot Park District; and Ken Williams, board chairman for the Minot Area Community Foundation. Front row, from left, are Niki Carlson, program director for the Minot Area Community Foundation; Judi Kitzman, entry writer, and Linda Hildahl, Power of the Purse Fund.
"We heard the news just before Christmas. They left a message on our answering machine, telling us we had won. We were both just thrilled," Kitzman said.
"With this project (the playground) it seems that we were just in the right place, at the right time, with the right message," he said. "Throughout the project, nobody we asked said 'no.' "
In her 100-word essay nomination for the contest, Judi wrote: "The Minot Area Community Foundation made the dream of a young boy a reality by designing, constructing and securing funding for an all-abilities playground in a local neighborhood park ... For the first time in our community, children with special needs can play with their peers and parents."
The foundation will use the money received from the contest to purchase more equipment for the playground or for an enhancement in Oak Park.
Many community members came together to make the Magic Smiles playground a reality, with multiple foundation funds used including the Bremer Impact Fund, Roger and Delores Odell Fund, Mike and Dorothy Dolan Fund and the Power of the Purse Fund.
Other significant partners included North Dakota Parks and Recreation, Souris Valley Ready Mix, the Minot Park District and Dakota Fence. Community members pitched in for the construction with a community build, with 100 volunteers donating some 600 hours.