Kieran Williamson runs the risk of filling his hands with splinters every time he plays on his school playground at Longbranch Elementary.
“The school has been talking about the need for a new playground since Kieran was in kindergarten,” said Carolyn Willamson, Kieran’s mother. She also has a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old who attend LBE. “He is now in fourth grade, and we still do not have the funds.”
The existing structure is not only an injury risk, but it doesn’t offer much to the students.
“The children are tired of getting splinters from using the playground,” Williamson said. “And the children admit some of the pieces of the playground just don’t make sense. The kids often choose not to use the playground as a result.”
In order to provide a better play experience for their kids, the LBE community has rallied together to raise money to replace the 20-year-old wooden structure.
“It is very difficult to find replacement parts when things break,” Williamson said. “There are not a lot of different things for students to do on the structures, and not a lot of opportunities for good exercise and fun. We felt it was time to build something new.”
Unfortunately, doing so won’t be cheap. Williamson said the cost to replacing the playground, including the basketball court and the swings, will be as much as $150,000, which the district itself cannot pay.
“The cost of a playground is overwhelming and can be discouraging,” Williamson said. “Until I attended a Playground Committee meeting, I had no idea how expensive playgrounds are. A properly sized structure for recess time costs as much as a house.”
But the LBE community remains undaunted and determined to raise the money. They’ve held a series of fundraisers, including LBE Playground Nights at UNO on Route 31 and an auction, and future fundraisers are planned at Chuckelberries on Route 57 and a miniature golf course. But the biggest event by far will be the LBE Walk-A-Thon, scheduled for May 30.
“For the entire month of May, the students are getting pledges from family, friends and the Liverpool community. The Walk-a-thon will be an all-day event,” Williamson said. “Longbranch students will be walking during their “special area” time around the school. Each lap around the school is a quarter of a mile, and they will be keeping track on special cards of the number of laps. Some children will be walking several miles.”
Williamson and the Playground Committee are looking for the community’s support in making the Walk-A-Thon a success. And there are plenty of opportunities to donate to the cause.
“The students and their parents are putting a lot of time and effort into trying to raise the funds,” Williamson said. “If they ask you for a donation, please say yes. If you own a business, please consider contacting the school. We have many options to recognize your support to the community.”
In addition to the fundraising events, community members can also donate through a website the committee has established at gofundme.com/Long-Branch-Elementary.
Williamson said she and her family are invested in this effort not only for themselves, but for future students at LBE as well as the community as a whole.
“[My son] wants that playground now for himself, for his brother and sister and for all the students at Longbranch,” she said. “I have made this a lesson for my children. I have helped them be involved at the Playground Committee meetings. They are learning how to be good citizens and the importance of giving back to your community. They are learning how to ask for help from your community and the importance of striving toward a common goal.”
Williamson noted the importance of the structure not only to LBE’s 450 students, but the community as a whole, as the playground is open to the public.
“Children need a safe and proper structure for play,” she said.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club’s Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.