Cedar Falls couple says Cooper would have loved playground

Cedar Falls couple says Cooper would have loved playground
Cedar Falls couple says Cooper would have loved playground(MGN)
Published: Dec. 3, 2022 at 11:06 AM CST
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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — Green was the color of choice last week when the Southdale Elementary School faithful gathered to unveil a new landmark with special meaning.

Becky and Eric Lins celebrated the opening of a new green playground in honor of their 7-year-old son, Cooper, who died in February from a blood infection. They called the Southdale second-grader their “St. Patty’s Day baby” after he was born March 17, 2014. Green was his favorite color, too.

The couple collected $140,000 from more than 300 donors and took on a whole lot of planning and preparation to make the playground a reality, but recognized they couldn’t have done it without the support of the community.

Several hundred students, parents, teachers and staff were on hand for the cutting of a green ribbon. It served almost like a starting line before the kids ran to enjoy the new jungle gym.

“It’s so cool to see them climbing on it,” Becky Lins told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. “It’s exactly what we envisioned.”

She added, “This playground project gave us purpose during the difficult times.”

Becky and Eric were joined up front during the ceremony by Cooper’s siblings, Molly, 11, and Charlie, 6. Principal Jason Strub also shared more about the project and the meaning behind it.

“Cooper was a very active young boy and was very social with his friends as they ran around, climbed, and played many different games at recess and after school,” Strub told the crowd.

Additionally, the Lins family released green balloons into the air in Cooper’s honor. His classmates, led by music teacher Lindsay Marks, sang songs they performed during last school year’s concert shortly after his death.

The unique addition to the current playground has lots of first-of-its-kind features and allows for more kids to play at once in the back of the neighborhood school on Orchard Drive.

There’s no shortage of climbing features, webbing and components to explore. It sits on a rubber tile surface and was installed with dirt work and concrete donated by Martinson Construction and Benton’s Sand and Gravel.

For the occasion, the site of the new equipment was lined with “Kindness Rocks for Cooper” that were painted by students in art class.

Eric Lins told the crowd that the playground would be the spark for people remembering Cooper and the impetus behind future stories about him. He also hoped it would remind people that sometimes life can be hard, but that good things can still happen and act as the encouragement for pushing through the difficult times.

He said the new playground will bring a lot of joy for years to come.

“You all have been such an inspiration to us, and to honor Cooper, let’s just have a whole lot of fun today playing,” he said.

Lins was emphatic about thanking the generous supporters, but especially the kids for their work.

“All of you students here at Southdale have just been incredible,” said Eric Lins. “You’ve gone above and beyond in your kindness and generosity in getting donations, giving your time, putting up lemonade stands, and putting on car washes, and collecting thousands of pop cans.”

The Lins family plans to host a larger dedication celebration in the spring to recognize new benches, bricks and signs made possible by donors.

“I can picture Cooper’s face,” Becky Lins said. “He would have a hoot just watching them all play right now.