OSWEGO – It was tears in the making. The new Leighton Elementary School playground was officially opened Thursday afternoon.
Home and School Association President Jacqueline Wallace and Mary Ann Preston, a parent volunteer from the Home and School Association and the playground committee chair, officially cut the ribbon.
They were joined by members of the Home and School Association, volunteers and donors as well as Principal Kara Shore and Superintendent Dr. Dean Goewey for the ceremony.
Following the ribbon cutting, Shore invited everyone inside for cake and refreshments.
“Thank you everyone for coming. I remember when I first started here, one of the first things we were talking about at a school meeting was the playground,” she said. “As funny as it may be, every school that I’ve been in … it’s always been about the playground. And, never once have I been able to say in my tenure, any place that I’ve been, that we finished that project.”
However, the Leighton Home and School Association “went above and beyond” and all of our community members as well to make sure the playground project was successfully completed, she added.
“They did not take no for an answer,” she said. “I am very appreciative to them. On the days that we actually did the build, we had so many community members that were here to help.”
The principal pointed out that along the way, she learned a great deal about what it takes to put a playground together.
“So, thank you again to everyone who worked so very hard to make this happen. The kids have already enjoyed it,” she said. “Hopefully, it will be spring soon and we can do it some more.”
“A lot of people really stepped up and made this happen,” Preston agreed.
She recognized a myriad people who volunteered their time and talents of who made a donation to the cause.
The Leighton Home and School Association has been actively fundraising for new playground equipment for more than six years through sales, pledge campaigns and student-led events including a change drive.
“We had a change drive in the school, where every student contributed something,” she pointed out.
Dr Pepper Snapple Group and national non-profit KaBOOM! awarded Frederick Leighton Home and School Association a $15,000 Let’s Play Community Construction Grant that was used to revitalize the school’s playground with new and engaging play structures, Preston said.
The grant is part of Let’s Play, an initiative by DPS to provide kids and families with the tools, places and inspiration to make active play a daily priority.
Pathfinder Bank and Stewart’s Shops? as well as the Richard S. Shineman Foundation also provided donations, bringing the total raised to more than $55,000 last October.
The Oswego Lowe’s worked on the edging, donated wheelbarrows and helped refurbish some of the old equipment.
Volunteers ranged from community members, students from the district, teachers and staff to SUNY Oswego students.
The gravel that was removed from the Leighton playground was used on the nature trail adjacent to Oswego Middle School.
Leighton families, staff and local businesses stepped up by supporting the association’s fundraising; the grants got them close to their goal, Preston said.
Last fall, Mayor Billy Barlow announced a $5,000 investment by the city of Oswego to the playground project.
“I am proud to make this modest investment to the Leighton Elementary School playground so our children can see how important our community parks are and we can better encourage them to get outdoors, get some exercise and enjoy their playgrounds,” said Mayor Barlow.
Built around 1991, the playground at Leighton is more than 26 years old and was comprised of decaying wooden structures that lacked engagement particularly for the youngest children who use the playground most often.
Following the makeover, the playground is much more inviting and safer for youngsters. The playground’s new surface is ADA compliant.
“The playground got a makeover with new equipment and some of the old stuff was shined up. Some old stuff was painted and the wood structures were re-stained. It looks great. It really was a community project; we received a lot of donations and the volunteers did a wonderful job,” Shore said.