Beating the drum for all children: Wichman honored with ‘Peace’ award

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a Perrysburg man was honored for starting a legacy of meaningful change — on playgrounds built for all children.

Ryan Wichman, a television meteorologist who led the effort to construct two inclusive playgrounds in Wood County, received the Drum Major for Peace Award.

The award was given Monday during the City of Bowling Green Human Relations Commission’s 34th annual tribute to King.

Wichman said that the award should be divided among many people.

“It took the entire community to put together, to fund raise, to see a vision for and to build,” he said.

“It can’t say thanks enough to the hundreds of volunteers that we had come out … for our fundraisers or the actual physical build,” Wichman said. “This is going to be something that lives on in the community for a long time.”

RallyCap Sports Inclusive Playground at Carter Park opened in Bowling Green last year. The first inclusive playground, at Rotary Community Park in Perrysburg, opened in 2021.

Katie Bochi, a NICU speech-language pathologist, serves on the Wood County Plays board with Wichman.

She said that he embodies each of the words used to describe the Drum Major for Peace Award: courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service.

Bochi said she asked each of the Wood County Plays board members to take one of those words and describe Wichman.

Wichman had the courage to ask for money, never once letting on that he was intimidated by “the large number” needed to build the playgrounds. Over $800,000 was raised to build the Perrysburg park and $600,000 was needed for Bowling Green.

He shared the truth of his own personal experience, opening a window into his family and how lack of accessibility has impacted them. Wichman’s son, Grant, and wife, Kaley, have become the public face of Wood County Plays, which started when Grant was unable to play with friends on a regular playground.

For justice, Wichman delivered equity to the under-represented and fights for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

There’s compassion in understanding the feeling and hurt when a kid cannot just be a kid. When planning the playgrounds, Wichman made sure the needs of many were considered, and that included visual and sensory.

Creating these playgrounds validates the dignity of all kids.

Humility is thinking of yourself less. Wood County Plays may have started with Wichman’s family but the team he put together shows how much he thinks of everyone else.

Boche said that Wichman galvanized the community, which wholeheartedly supported the playgrounds.

“The community responded in force and in service,” Boche said. “We owe you our thanks for challenging us all to be better versions of ourselves.”

Wichman is a meteorologist for WTOL-TV and annually does the commentary for the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce Holiday Parade.

Musical selections for the ceremony were performed by Mike Williams on saxophone and Bowling Green State University Music College faculty member Ariel Kasler.

The ceremony was held online.