One parent said the new playground equipment at Waterville Community Elementary School has given her son the freedom to play at school for the first time.
The handicapped-accessible playground was named “Michelle Rogers Field of Dreams” after the special education teacher who initiated raising the $65,000 needed to buy the playground.
During a short dedication ceremony, Rogers said the words “thank you” didn’t seem to be enough.
“Thanks is such a small word, but it means a great deal,” Rogers said Friday during the dedication of the new playground equipment and Cherokee Walking Trail at Waterville Community Elementary School.
Rogers was in her third year as a teacher when she transferred to Waterville Elementary after two years at Lake Forest Middle School. It has now been five years since she set out to ensure play is a shared experience by all students, including the 28 special education students.
“I had kids in walkers and wheelchairs,” she said. “There was nothing for them to do.”
Rogers began a letter writing campaign to local businesses and community groups, held fundraisers and applied for grants. The letter writing campaign began in October. Money began coming in and she just let it build up.The total cost of the playground was about $65,000.
The largest sums of money came from the Healthy Community Initiative grant in the amount of $23,000. The school’s Parent-Teacher Organization raised $10,000, Waterville Baptist Church took up a donation, Duracell added $8,000 and money was raised through the school’s recycling program.
The new playground can also be used for therapy and the quarter-mile oval walking trail is now open to the community.
Principal Charlene Cofer encouraged students and families to use the track funded by the Tennessee Department of Health through the Project Diabetes initiative
“I want your teachers to bring you out here every day when the weather is nice,” she said.
Duracell plant manager Bill Barkley said the company’s donation came through Proctor & Gamble’s Live, Learn and Thrive initiative designed to improve the lives of youth.
Bradley County Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel said he is grateful for all of the community participation.
“It’s a dream we are glad to see become a reality,” he said, “We have walking trails at all of our schools. I see parents walking with their children in the afternoons and evenings. That’s what we hoped for.”