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Kids Kingdom goes up in flames, city officials look to clean up

“I don’t see why it’s been here for so many years! I don’t get it,” said Christina Larrison, a resident of South Bend.

A South Bend community staple was set to flames Tuesday evening and is the center of local residents’ and city leaders’ attention.

“It’s been here for 25 years, it has not been plagued by trouble before,” said Mark McDonnell, the past President of South Bend Rotary Club.

A neighbor living near Kids Kingdom at Potawatomi Park called the South Bend Fire Department around 6:25 p.m. after seeing those flames coming from the structure.

“The investigation is ongoing, but at this point it does look like arson,” said Aaron Perri, Executive Director of Venues Parks and Arts.

No injuries were reported.

Christina Larrison grew up going to the park and can’t understand why someone would do this on purpose.

“It means a lot to me. Me and my sister grew up playing… it was like a big memory, now my kids are playing in it. Their dad passed away two years ago and they had memories with their dad here… so this is like a big memory for them,” said Larrison.

One of the people behind the park’s creation – Mark McDonnell – is also upset that someone would go after something he helped build.

“This is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, park assets that the city of South Bend has," said McDonnell.

Now, Venues Parks and Arts Executive Director Aaron Perri says due to the consistent vandalism cases like this one across the city, funds will go towards new measures to prevent it.

“As part of my SB Parks and Trails initiative we will be instituting new security measures, cameras will be part of that plan,” said Perri.

But residents like Larrison say they’re not happy after finding out the park will be closed for at least the next two weeks.

“I have a special needs daughter that has trouble getting around and this is a good playground for her to get around. Because there are tons of things to grab and stairs to walk up so.. but its sad,” said Larrison.

But V.P.A. says they’re stepping up to fix the structure and the problem.

“We created something that has stood the test of time, though some idiot tried to destroy all that but we’re happy to see things happening and it’ll be back on its feet again,” said McDonnell.

If you would like to help, a ‘service day’ is being held at the park on Monday from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in response to the vandalism where residents can help clean up the area of the park. The Parks Department also set up a crowd funding campaign where you can donate to help fund the clean-up by clicking here.

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