McKinney students inspired by classmate to build playground for all

News 8's Hannah Davis has more.

McKINNEY -- Eleven-year-old James Ryan Leach loves superheroes. If you're lucky enough, the Eddins Elementary student will name you after one.

"Last week, I was Iron Man. Now it's Spider-Man, I think," said Gia Gall, who is Leach's classmate and friend.

Leach has Down syndrome and Gall doesn't, but hasn't stopped the two from becoming best friends. Principal Sharon Havard says their school is designed to foster these kind of relationships.

"We want a place of inclusion," Havard said. "We want our students to graduate with a good education, but also good social skills."

Students say they've learned a lot by befriending people who may appear to be different on the surface. The friendships even inspired a project that could change the way McKinney looks.

Last year, students designed a playground that's tailored for children with mental or physical differences. Plans include large, basket-like swings that fit two people, so children and their caregivers can swing together. Another plan has a wheelchair racetrack for kids to use.

"They did their research and really did good work," Havard said.

Right now, the school is working with the City of McKinney to make the plans a reality. The local rotary club is helping fund the project. It hopes to raise around $500,000. If you'd like to contribute, click here.

"We don't have a set date for construction, but when it happens, it's going to be such a success," Havard said.

In the meantime, James Ryan and Gia say they'll continue to learn from each other, covering lessons that will last for life.

"He's taught me to always be kind -- especially how you treat others," Gall said.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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