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Ravenwood Elementary dedicates new accessible playground to student who died

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Posted at 4:37 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 19:20:32-04

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo — Ravenwood Elementary School in North Kansas City is dedicating its new accessible playground to a special former student.

Alexander Esteban was born with Down syndrome and suffered from three strokes in his lifetime. Amid the challenges brought on by the pandemic, he passed away on Feb. 16 after contracting pneumonia.

“Oh, Alex was a wonderful little boy. I was lucky to be his mom for 15 years,” Regina Esteban said. “He was just an amazing little boy. He loved music, he loved to dance, he loved to eat.”

Alexander was his parents’ one and only son. He was born to Gabriel and Regina after years of hoping for their own child. Even with all the physical barriers he had to overcome, his parents said Alexander was always bright, kind and charismatic.

“He had a personality that would light up a room. People were drawn to him,” Gabriel said.

Alexander suffered his first stroke at age seven due to Moyamoya disease. It caused the veins in his brain to narrow, making it prone to blockage. After his second and third strokes, he could not walk or talk and needed assistance from a feeding tube.

“Toward the end of his life, it took a toll on him,” Gabriel said. “That's the saddest experience is making plans to bury your own child.”

His parents are hoping to turn the page. A brand new playground, dedicated to their son by his former elementary school, is helping them look to the future.

Principal at Ravenwood Elementary School Dr. Amy Casey said 20% of students they serve have special needs. She hopes the new accessible playground can create a more inclusive and safer environment.

The construction was made possible by a $155 million no tax bond that was passed in June 2020. It helped fund several projects around North Kansas City schools.

“We have these big basket swings that we can actually help the kids out of their wheelchairs, help them in, so that they can swing and enjoy that,” Casey said. “There are lots of pieces that are low to the ground with different games that students can play.”

While Alexander will not be able to enjoy the new playground, his bright smile and personality will be remembered by his Ravenwood family for years to come.

“While I've been the principal here, Alex and his family have touched my life deeply, and the lives of everyone else here. So this is a really special time for us,” Casey said.

The playground will be one of few accessible playgrounds in North Kansas City Schools. The official dedication will be on Friday afternoon.