Feb. 5, 2007

'It's all about the kids'

Funds sought for LP playground equipment

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

A local business is offering a $15,000 matching donation that it hopes will bring the community together to help raise funds for new playground equipment at Lester Prairie Elementary School.

Denise Johnson of Rite Way Mechanical Installation said her children, Stephanie Kellner, 11, and Kraig Kellner, 8, are students at the school, and told her they wished there was better equipment on the playground.

Johnson took a look at what was available, and agreed with her children.

“There was a definite need,” Johnson said.

She then approached her father, Rite Way owner Bob Green, about the possibility of making a donation toward the purchase of new playground equipment.

Green agreed to make a matching donation of up to $15,000 if the school and others could come up with the rest of the money.

“I like to do it this way as an incentive to bring everyone together to make the community better,” Green said.

Johnson then contacted Lester Prairie Principal Pam Lukens about the idea.

As it happened, plans for improving the playground were already being discussed.

A community effort

The school district and the elementary student council had already set a goal to update the playground and add age-appropriate equipment to the grass area behind the kindergarten rooms, Lukens said.

The proposal from Rite Way fit very well with the school’s goals, she added.

Lukens said the last time any equipment was purchased for the playground was in 1989 or 1990.

The Lester Prairie Advisory Committee formed a committee to implement the goal of improving the playground.

Beginning Thursday, Feb. 1, and running through Sunday, April 15, the school and other groups will participate in fund-raising activities with the goal of raising $45,000 to purchase equipment and make improvements to the playground area.

Plans include the purchase of a play system that will accommodate 70-80 students, the number that are at recess at one time. The equipment that the school currently has was designed for only 20 students.

The committee has submitted a grant request for a Hamburger Helper community improvement grant of up to $15,000.

The grant application states that the estimated cost for equipment for children ages 5-12 is $26,000, plus another $8,000 for children age 2-5.

Both Johnson and Lukens said they are looking for equipment that will be good for helping students improve their mobility skills.

Some of the equipment they have looked at would help students improve their upper body strength, which is something the students may not get from participating in team sports, Lukens said.

Organizers also plan to update and repair the basketball area and pave an area for large group activities.

They also hope to add a play system, sandbox, and paved area for kindergarten and preschool students.

In addition to the matching funds offered by Rite Way, the school has already received a $1,000 grant from the Lester Prairie Lions, and a $1,000 community grant from the Hutchinson Wal Mart.

Another $1,000 has already been received from an anonymous source.

Lukens said the elementary student council has about $5,000 in its fund to donate to the project.

More fund-raising activities planned

Other activities that are being planned to raise money for the new playground equipment include:

• Bulldog magnets will be sold beginning Sno Fest week, Monday-Friday, Feb. 5-9. The magnets will also be available from the school district and will be sold at school events.

• The school district will sponsor a meal and carnival, Thursday, March 29 from 5-8 p.m.

Lukens said more activities are being discussed, and will be announced when more information is available.

One event that has been discussed is an auction or garage sale, but no date has been set.

She said she has already been approached by people asking how they can help.

Green summed it up.

“It’s all about the kids,” he said.

Want to help?

Those who wish to help with fund-raising activities or make a donation can contact Lester Prairie K-12 Principal Pam Lukens at (320) 395-3011.

The committee has also applied for a grant of up to $15,000 from Hamburger Helper. Those interested can help by adding their comments and support at www.myhometownhelper.com.

• click “find project.”

• select “Minnesota” and enter “Lester Prairie.”

• enter comments.

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