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Inclusive playground to honor Monticello superhero

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 7:55 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A superhero from Our Town Monticello has left a legacy that continues to inspire others.

In 2015, doctors diagnosed Austin Smith with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a rare form of brain cancer, when Austin was five. He passed away the following year.

Britt and Mikinzie Smith created the Austin Strong Foundation to honor their son. They’ve primarily raised money for brain cancer and DIPG research, but now they’re building a playground in Monticello as part of their mission.

The Smiths said that Austin loved playgrounds.

“Loved swings, absolutely loved swings. So simple, but he did love them.” Mikinzie said. “When cancer started taking those physical abilities one by one, you know, we watched the pain that that caused, and we didn’t want any other child to feel that way.”

Through the Austin Strong Foundation and the city of Monticello came the idea for a playground, to bring kids together of all abilities to play. It includes ramps for access, musical toys, imaginative play areas, and the swings Austin loved so much.

“Monticello has been amazing to our family during Austin’s fight, but also when we began a foundation, they’ve been very supportive of our mission,” Mikinzie said. “We wanted to bring something to Monticello to honor him but also to honor the kids in our community as well.”

Rendering of Austin Smith Inclusive Playground
Rendering of Austin Smith Inclusive Playground(Mikinzie Smith)

Smith said that support continues toward the mission to build a playground, from organizations and churches holding fundraisers, to kids selling lemonade.

“We actually developed a ‘junior superhero’ program so kids can raise up to $250 and then they’re included as a junior superhero in the project,” Mikinzie said.

His parents said Austin, who would be 11 today, would be proud of this project.

“He was always proud to be from Monticello; he was always proud of being a superhero and I think he’d just be beaming right now,” Mikinzie said.

The project will cost a little more than $400,000 and so far they’ve raised $170,000. They hope to have it built by next fall. You can read more about the Austin Strong Foundation and donate to the project here.

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