NILES Students raise money for new playground

Volunteers will erect the new equipment at the school Saturday.
NILES -- Students at Jackson Elementary School are realizing that pennies really do add up.
The students raised more than $19,000 over two years through donations, candy and brick sales and by saving their pennies for playground equipment.
About 20 volunteers will roll up their sleeves and brave the heat Saturday to erect the new playground equipment at the school. A smaller group of volunteers unloaded the pieces Thursday morning.
Melissa Martin, one of the parents who organized the effort, said Jackson students raised the money over two years to buy the handicapped-accessible equipment. Martin's sons Billy Jr., 10, and Christopher, 7, attend Jackson.
Equipment: When complete, the new play area will include a bright-red millennium slide, made up of three slides, allowing three children to enjoy the ride at the same time. Multicolored monkey bars, spring-loaded animals and 10 swings complete the set.
"My husband and I spent a lot of time at other playgrounds and talking to kids about what they liked, what they didn't like; 99.9 percent of the time they said the swings weren't high enough and there weren't enough swings," Martin said.
She looked for swings that would allow children to soar as high as is safe. She wanted the kids who play on the swings to experience that same flying-high feeling she did when she was a child.
Mulch donor: Some of the equipment, including the spring-loaded animals and swings, arrived a few months ago, but laws governing public playgrounds mandate 12 inches of mulch and woodchips surrounding play areas. The mulch is to cushion falls, and without it, the school could face liability.
A donor, who wants to remain anonymous, delivered two large piles of mulch earlier this week. More woodchips were to be delivered today and will be spread Saturday.
The woodchips will pack, creating a surface smooth enough for handicapped children to maneuver wheelchairs onto the playground.
The spring-loaded animals also are low enough for disabled children to enjoy, Martin said. A walkway, lined with commemorative bricks, will lead from a sidewalk to the play area.
Volunteers: Several area businesses are to contribute food and beverages for the Saturday volunteers who include parents, school district officials and representatives of area companies and organizations, but Martin said anyone who is willing to pitch in is welcome.
"Just bring wheelbarrows, shovels and rakes," Martin said.

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