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Sun, April 21

Growing a Legacy Lawn: New playground benefits youngster with blood disorder

Matthew Blacketer, 6, in the blue cap, takes part in a game of Duck, Duck, Goose on the new Legacy Lawn playground at the Christian Academy of Prescott. Matthew’s medical condition prevents him from playing outside on hard surfaces without wearing a helmet and kneepads.
Photo by Sue Tone.

Matthew Blacketer, 6, in the blue cap, takes part in a game of Duck, Duck, Goose on the new Legacy Lawn playground at the Christian Academy of Prescott. Matthew’s medical condition prevents him from playing outside on hard surfaces without wearing a helmet and kneepads.

Matthew Blacketer has a safe place to play in the schoolyard at Christian Academy of Prescott (CAP) – an artificial turf playground with extra padding. Matthew can run to his heart’s desire over the green expanse with no need to wear a helmet or kneepads.

The first-grade student was diagnosed three years ago with an immune system disorder, Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP), a disorder that leads to excessive bruising and bleeding. A minor injury for anyone else could be life threatening for someone with ITP where the blood’s inability to clot is particularly dangerous with head injuries. The 6-year-old youngster often stayed inside during recess and PE while his classmates played outside on the cement.

The project to put in a turf playground – called the Legacy Lawn – began two years ago, but really took off when Matthew’s situation warranted a padded yard, said Susan Dandos, CAP administrator.

“We wanted to upgrade our outside areas. Because of Matthew, this became a priority and phase one,” Dandos said. The preschool playground and jungle gym area will be phases two and three, she added. In May, the Legacy Lawn will have a shade structure set up.

Matthew’s father, Brian Blacketer, said he was concerned about his son’s bruising as a toddler. At age 3, he took him to the doctor who suggested a blood test, then – before they arrived home – called them back for a second blood draw.

“When they tell you, ‘Don’t worry, it’s not leukemia,’ you know it’s serious,” Blacketer said. “It’s just our new normal now.”

Matthew goes to Phoenix Children’s Hospital every seven weeks for intravenous immune globulin treatment (IVIG). For 24 hours following each treatment, he feels sick. What IVIG accomplishes is to add more platelets to Matthew’s blood system. The treatment is temporary, with the platelet count decreasing by half each week. He used to get them every four weeks, his father said.

“Compared to what other children are going through at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, this is just a minor inconvenience,” Blacketer said.

Children with ITP sometimes will outgrow the disorder, something for which Blacketer, his wife, Shannon, and two older sons, Joe and Chris, are praying.

The school community conducted fundraisers for the project which cost about $30,000.

The Blacketer family donated $10,000, and the turf company and installer discounted their costs. A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Friday, April 22, with the entire student body running and rolling around with Matthew on the new Legacy Lawn.

“They look out for their students here. Every child is cared for,” Blacketer said.

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