Golfers will be playing the links again next month to raise money for a new place for kids to play.

It’s the second annual “Swing the Kids” fundraising event for the Inclusive Playground proposed for Waconia’s Waterford Park. The event is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 21, at Pioneer Creek golf course with a 1:30 p.m. start.

Proceeds from the event will go to help build a unique playground designed to provide a place where children with and without disabilities can safely play together.

Last year’s inaugural event, which featured an afternoon golf scramble, evening concert, food, and live and silent auctions, raised more than $50,000 for the proposed playground project.

This year’s event will proceed in a scaled back format due to COVID-19. There will be no sit-down meal or musical attraction because of the pandemic, but golfers will get a box lunch and chances for prizes, and an auction with an extensive number of donated items will be held in a virtual format.

Organizers had considered cancelling the event, like a lot of others, due to the pandemic, but decided to proceed with a safe, socially distant golf event and online auction, according to Pete Leo, Waconia city councilman and this year’s event chair.

Other organizations have had great success raising funds with the virtual silent auction format, Leo notes. It extends the bidding period and opens up bidding beyond only those attending the event.

Leo, who previously served on the Waconia park board, also expressed an urgency to move forward with the Inclusive Playground.

The playground project got its footing in early 2017 through a $5,000 donation from the Quinn Larson family. The boy is now 11 years old, and Leo said “it would be great to get it built so he can use it.”

Total cost for playground equipment and accessible surfacing is projected at around $600,000. The goal is to fundraise approximately $400,000 for the project, with the city earmarking some capital and grant funds, along with plans for an additional park building with restrooms adjacent to the playground. The project is currently anticipated in 2023, unless funds can be raised sooner.

Contributions currently stand at around $125,000. The goal, Leo said, is to push that figure higher to make it eligible for other matching grants.

Event organizers currently have 28 sponsors for this year’s fundraiser and have heard from several other companies who would like to be part of the event.

“We really are blown away by the support of this event and the playground,” Leo said. “We have received so much silent auction stuff that we are going to have a small silent auction for all the golfers and then another online silent auction for people in the community.”

Check out the silent auction items on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/waconiainclusiveplayground. And watch for the online silent auction the week of the golf tournament.

“We are extremely excited for the tournament and we are going to make sure it’s safe and fun for everyone involved,” Leo said.

In addition to the “Swing for the Kids” fundraiser, an Inclusive Playground and Go Fund Me page have been set up on the city’s website, www.waconia.org, to secure funds for the project. Individuals, families or businesses also can sign up to donate a specific piece of equipment to the playground.

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