Special needs playground put on hold over dispute with non-profit

Posted at 11:00 PM, Sep 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-14 01:02:31-04

DENVER -- A Colorado man is trying to raise money for a special needs playground, but says a local non-profit spent some of the funds and is making him jump through hoops to get it back.

"This isn't their money, it's the playgrounds money," said the founder and man behind Big Batmobile Colorado, Zack Loffert.

Loffert turned a Chevrolet El Camino into a real-life Batmobile. He also created a Facebook page and visits local hospitals and charities to bring joys to kids in need.

"It brings me to tears every time I go," said Loffert. "I do it for the kids."

He said he came up with the idea to build a superhero-themed special needs playground after visiting another park with his kids.

"A girl rolled up in her wheelchair, she couldn't get past the barrier and she started crying. I saw the mom trying to comfort her but there was nothing she could do," said Loffert. "At this playground they're not different, they're going to be able to play with everybody else and be the same."

Loffert got approval from Foothills Park and Recreation to build the playground at Daniel L. Schaefer Athletic Complex off Kipling St. and Hampden Ave. and said he partnered with the Autism Society of Colorado to raise money.

However, when he decided to end the partnership, he found much of the money was missing and that it would be difficult to get back.

"After getting the runaround for a month, I found out they had spent the money," said Loffert.

Loffert said the non-profit has $3,070 that was raised for the playground.

The Autism Society of Colorado's treasurer told Denver7 by phone it can only give the money to another charity.

"We would turn it over tomorrow if he would just give us a charity to give it to," said Treasurer Michael Zeitlin. "It should not be a problem for him to find another charity to accept the money. What's his problem with that?"

Loffert said it's not that simple.

"It's frustrating because trying to call a 501(c) and say, ‘Hey we have this great playground but we have this issue with this other one. I need you to take the money.’ They don't understand the whole story," further explained Loffert.

Denver7 asked Zeitlin why the non-profit spent the money to begin with and blamed the previous executive director.

Loffert said he hopes they change their mind so the playground can go on.

"The funds should be returned, and I won't stop until they are returned," he said. "What if one of the kids come in their wheelchair and they met their future best friend for the rest of their life, and they would have never met them if it wasn't for this playground?"

Loffert has set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds in the meantime.

He said the playground will cost anywhere from $600,000 to $1 million.


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