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How an Arizona town made their own Christmas miracle.

The Yuma community built a special, inclusive, kid-designed playground. And after an arsonist burned it down, they built it again.

How an Arizona town made their own Christmas miracle.

If you want to design the best playground, you’ve got to ask the kids what they want.

That's what Ron and Stephanie Martin of Yuma, Arizona, did. They wanted to remember their late friend, who loved being outdoors near the Colorado River, so they donated $100,000 to fund a creative playground. The land was set aside in late 2005.

To prepare, 5,000 schoolchildren drew pictures and gave suggestions to help come up with the design.


The Martins hoped the playground would be a place where all kids could have fun. Based on the kids’ requests, they planned to make the ground out of a squishy plastic for gentler falls. There would be an Old West area just for the tiniest kids. Paths would be wide and level for wheelchair access. And they'd even have adaptive swings for larger bodies with safety supports.

Following the Martins' donation, the Yuma community raised another $450,000 for the playground build.

Yuma sits on the corner of California, Arizona, and Mexico. Agriculture is big there with the Colorado River, but unemployment is over 20%. Raising that much money in a community of fewer than 100,000 people was a huge undertaking.

In 2007, everything came together. 8,000 volunteers built the park themselves in just 10 days. Halfway through, when there wasn’t enough money or people to keep going, drive-by fundraisers were organized, and a call went out for help.

Welcome to the Creative Playground! Photo via yumacastlepark.com, used with permission.

The playground officially opened in February 2007 and became the favorite park in town immediately.

It was 17,000 square feet of pure fun.

Photo via yumacastlepark.com, used with permission.

It had features like a castle, dragon slide, climbing wall, airplanes, giant spider web, monkey bars, and a tree house tower. It was a kid’s paradise.

Then tragedy struck: an arsonist set fire to the Castle Park right after Christmas in 2014.

Photo via the City of Yuma, used with permission.

The special materials used for desert building melted and burned. It was a total loss.

But the playground had sparked something special within the Yuma community. It had given them a place to play and gather, no matter what else was going on.

So people immediately jumped in to help build ... again.

Within 24 hours, Yuma residents rallied to raise money to rebuild the park. Families donated a few dollars each. Some businesses pledged up to $10,000. A website was quickly established — YumaCastlePark.com — for updates. More than $70,000 was raised in the first few days, before the city heard that insurance would cover the loss.

Demolition cleared the way for the playground to rise again.

Families painted tiles to be included in the park design at community events during 2015.

Photo by Rachel Twoguns/Yuma Sun. Used with permission.

Construction began in September.

Photo by Randy Hoeft/Yuma Sun. Used with permission.

No volunteers were needed this time — the insurance settlement included labor.

And so it was, less than a year after the fire, that Yuma celebrated a little Christmas miracle of their own.

Photo via the City of Yuma, used with permission.


Together, they welcomed back their biggest and best play attraction on Dec. 19, 2015.


The best part? The park is even better than it was before. Because insurance covered the fire, the funds raised right after the fire went toward a further expansion of the park. Now there are even more play areas for able and disabled kids alike to enjoy.

This story is about tragedy, yes. But it's also about the power of communities and the power of people to do something good for one another during the holidays. It's proof that no matter what, people are the strongest force there is.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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