A Passion From Autism

Our story began its journey after a big hearted 8-year-old saw a friend in need—he decided something had to be done. With the help of his family, his friends, and his community, our hero was able to realize his dream of creating an All Inclusive Playground. Yes, happy readers, this was no easy task, by any means, but our guy overcame the obstacles, dealt with the frustrations, and never gave up. Today there stands a wonderful community playground where once there wasn't.

We are pleased to introduce, Lucas Fritsche, one of our 573 People of the Year.



For nearly half of his life, Lucas has been on a very important mission. Despite the obstacles that came with this journey, or the ones he faces every day for that matter, Lucas overcame adversity and beat the odds.

Lucas Fritsche, along with his younger sister and brother, was raised by two loving, hard-working parents on the family-farm just outside of Perryville in a little community called Farrar. He goes to school, runs track and cross-country, and likes to explore nature, play video games, and watch funny video clips on his phone. But Lucas Fritsche is no average eighth grader.

Lucas and friends raised over 500k to create this wonderful playground...and it took 5 years to do so.

For nearly half of his life, Lucas has been on a very important mission. Despite the obstacles that came with this journey, or the ones he faces every day for that matter, Lucas overcame adversity and beat the odds. And because of that, he was able to make a big difference in the lives of many local children.



MEET Lucus, one of our 573 Persons of the Year. It is his indivisualism and passion that makes us at 573 Magazine happy to know Lucas.



The number one driving force behind the project since the beginning, Lucas has learned at a very young age, the work, time, and determination needed to make things happen. It is his indivisualism and passion that makes us at 573 Magazine happy to know Lucas.


He’s been a major player in fundraising and with PR. He’s made videos, done interviews, put on presentations, attended planning meetings and has even been boots on the ground as a part of the volunteer team helping with the actual construction of the playground. Although sometimes overwhelmed with both public and personal obstacles, Lucas manages to keep moving forward and is a shining example of what it means to Get Out There!

I saw my friend Arawn and he was only on the swings because we didn’t have much to play on for kids like him.

I am 14 and I started this project when I was in my second year of second grade. I was 8-years-old. You see, I saw my friend, Arawn, who was in the same class as me—a special education class. We grew close. One day when I was in my classroom, I went to sharpen my pencil and the pencil sharpener was by our teacher’s desk and the window that looked out over the playground. When I was looking at the kids playing outside, wishing that was me, I saw my friend Arawn and he was only on the swings because we didn’t have much to play on for special kids.


I went to my principal asking if we could build some stuff for my friend Arawn and she said, “Well, that costs money."

I went to my principal asking if we could build some stuff for my friend Arawn and she said, “Well, that costs money. So then I talked to my parents about it and they took me to the P.I.E. (Parents Involved in Education) meeting for parents and teachers to tell them my idea of the playground at my school. When the Mayor heard about it, it just exploded everywhere making this happen!

When the Mayor heard about it, it just exploded everywhere making this happen!

Like many other all-inclusive playgrounds, Lucas & Friends features a tall sturdy fence, with locking latches high on top of the gates. The fence surrounds the whole park keeping it a safe place to play for everyone, and it gives the parents a happy secure smile.



Lucas has accomplished much in the last six years after bringing this issue to the floor. Finding sponsors and fundraising a whopping $520,000.00 over the course of five years, taking a year for planning and gathering volunteers, and helping to build and bring Phase One of the playground to completion.


573 Magazine: Lucas, tell us about the playground.


The playground has xylophones and other music equipment. It’s to help with creativity. And kids with special needs can reach it and play on most everything at the playground. My favorite spots are the orange slide and the treehouse. The orange slide is my favorite mostly because it’s fun for me.


The big orange slide, or Solemn Slide, has raised ridges swirling all across the surface area, and was designed to be a piece for sensory play. The raised parts give kids with Autism and other sensory disorders, like Lucas, extra sensory feedback. This can make their play more enjoyable and satisfy all the senses for these special, sensitive people to have a fun experience that keeps their interest.

We were going to need a treehouse, but one that everyone can play with, even Arawn.

The treehouse is another one. They wanted a backyard feel, and that meant we were going to need a treehouse. But one that everyone can play with, even Arawn. I really like the treehouse.


Like the entrance to the play area, ramps lead up into and throughout the main structure itself. The design leads them straight to the large lookout tower style treehouse, making it, like the rest of the playground, accessible and enjoyable for all.


...you can see patterns of large square red tiles. These tiles are there to let children with different impairments know that it’s a danger zone and should be avoided. This design helps prevent collusion type accidents which can often occur on playgrounds.