Special needs playground vandalized in Akron

Special needs playground vandalized in Akron
Plants were also thrown around the playground. (Source: Erika Kraus)
Plants were also thrown around the playground. (Source: Erika Kraus)

AKRON, OH (WOIO) - Just as school is getting started across northeast Ohio, vandals strike a playground in Akron for children with special needs.

Vandals struck not once, but twice at Essex Elementary School. The building now houses a program for preschoolers with many of the kids having special needs.

Some Firestone High School students had been working on their own community beautification project that includes making the play areas safer and more kid friendly.

"I didn't know who would do that. What kind of person does that?" said Tyler Stallsmith, one of the volunteers.

Erica Kraus and her friends from Firestone High started the project because they noticed the play areas around the school could use some sprucing up.

"All these benches back here used to be old wood. It was splintered. It was old wood, and it wasn't really safe for the kids. So, the teachers wouldn't really bring the kids back here because they would run around and get splinters. They'd fall down. It wasn't a very bright, happy place," explained Kraus.

People in the community who learned about the project immediately stepped up and donating money for new wood for the benches, paint and plants. But then someone tried to ruin it all. Some time over the weekend, vandals splashed paint all over the place, and that wasn't all.

"On a whim, I climbed up on the band tower, and I happened to see all the plants lying on the roof," described Kraus.

Even a Firestone marching band trailer was spray painted with graffiti. Instruments had paint thrown on them. The marching band had been using the Essex property for practice.

"I just want to see who did it. I want to look them in the eyes and say, you know, 'why would you do something like that?'" said David Nees, an instructor for the marching band.

Akron Police are scanning surveillance video looking for the suspects.

Meanwhile, Kraus and her friends are picking up where they left off, determined to finished the project they started before the preschoolers head back to school.

"They wrote on the trailer that they are a gang. They think they are a gang. We have footage of them. So, we are going to find out who they are, and we are not discouraged by it at all," added Kraus.

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