WATERFORD — Waterford Union High School students are nearing the end of a two-year campaign to bring an all-inclusive playground to the community.
Members of the school’s National Honor Society began collecting money for the project, dubbed the “Play it Forward” campaign during the 2016-17 school year, with an initial goal of $30,000. After collecting that amount in the first six months of fundraising, the group upped the ante to a $72,000 goal and is now 82 percent of the way there with $59,100 collected.
Matthew McCormick, Waterford High senior and NHS member, said he was shocked at how much the students have accomplished so far.
“We’re kids but have the ability to raise a lot of money and do something great for the community,” he said.
The NHS plans to complete a quick week-long community build of the playground at Whitford Park in August. The only playground in the community on public property was located at Whitford Park and was not in good condition. The new playground will replace the old one with features catering to those with autism, children who use wheelchairs and have leg casts, as well as children without special needs.
At the urging of Hannah Merlo, Waterford High student and NHS member at the time, the organization undertook an effort to make the playground a place for children of all abilities to come together.
Over the past two years, NHS has hosted numerous fundraisers for the cause like a babysitting event, two Mr. Waterford pageants, a movie night, an inclusive awareness week and multiple dinner fundraisers.
Currently the group is selling fence posts carved with donor names for $50 apiece. The durable composite wood posts will make up half the fencing around the playground.
NHS started the picket fence fundraiser about two weeks ago and had already sold approximately 85 of them by the end of last week.
McCormick said he was pleased with the community’s support.
“They’ve really gotten behind it,” he said.
Many of the features slated for the playground are meant to engage children of all abilities as well as assist them with therapy or physical skill development. Some highlights include ramps to various play boards, a slide near an easy transfer station, a merry-go-round with a transfer station and a harnessed swing.
“We have a lot of people that could really use this,” McCormick said.
Will Busch, another Waterford High senior and NHS member said he hopes that this project will help bring families as well as students of different abilities together.
In the eyes of Waterford High social studies teacher and NHS co-advisor Allysia Gagnon, this project has facilitated learning for NHS students.
“The NHS members have learned how to fund raise and how to stick to it, even though it’s hard,” she said.
The students are optimistic that they’ll raise the funds by August.
“All we need is one last push,” Busch said.
Especially because they’ve collected so much already, Busch believes reaching the goal before the deadline is “very doable.”
How to help
Play it Forward has a bank account through Associated Bank in Waterford, 217 N. Milwaukee St. The employees at the bank can help anyone wishing to make a donation.
Donations can also be made at the school district’s office, at 100 Field Drive.
Picket fence posts can be ordered via check made payable to Waterford Union High School.
“We’re kids but have the ability to raise a lot of money and do something great for the community.” Matthew McCormick,
Waterford High senior and NHS member