New school year, new playgrounds Print E-mail
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Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

MONONA/DARLINGTON -- Students at Catholic schools in Monona and Darlington will have more to look forward to as the school year starts than just seeing their friends again and learning new lessons.

Both Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) School in Monona and Holy Rosary School in Darlington have just completed building their new playgrounds, fully ready for recess times.

A common goal

The new playground at IHM was the culmination of a two-year process.

With the old playground determined to be "outdated," Principal Callie Meiller said, "We thought it would be a good addition to everything else we're trying to work on around here . . . with the grounds always looking so nice, it'd be nice to have a brand new playground."

Parent volunteer Rachel Matenaer played a large role in the project becoming reality.

She, and parents from the school, began meeting and came up with a wish list for the new playground, talking to playground equipment companies, and looking into grants for funding, in addition to donations from parishioners and school families.

The project would receive a $3,000 grant from the MGE (Madison Gas & Electric) Foundation.

"They believed in it, and they supported us with that," said Matenaer.

The grant was obtained following the school outlining some of the benefits of the new playground, including parts for climbing, and a "spinami" for spinning.

Meiller said she found research that showed that "it's really important for kids to spin because it literally gets the juices flowing in their brains."

The new playground also includes more swings.

"That was the biggest thing we heard from the kids is they want more swings. They never get a chance to swing at recess," said Meiller.

Recently, parent volunteers were needed to both take down the old playground and put the new one up a few days later.

The equipment company provided some of their own workers, and a team of about a dozen helpers from the school and parish, with professional guidance, put the playground together and installed it on the grounds.

"It's very surreal to have been planning something and working on something for two years and see it happen," said Matenaer, who, along with Meiller and others, helped in the playground assembly.

"It's so encouraging and heartwarming to see an idea come together and be backed by so many parishioners and school families," Matenaer added. "It feels great. It's like we're a team and we have a common goal, we want to improve the playground for the enjoyment of the children."

For the future

Similarly, nearly 60 miles away, volunteers from Holy Rosary School in Darlington, part of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, along with playground professionals, assembled and put up the school's new playground.

A nearly 20-year-old wooden structure was replaced by "something nice and new," according to Principal Tanya Horne.

From initial idea to fundraising to construction, the project took nearly five years to complete.

School and parish fundraisers helped pay for the cost of the playground, including a spaghetti dinner and raffle drawings.

There were some private donations as well.

School parent January Meylor was one of many volunteers who helped make the project come to life.

"I wanted the community to see that we're here," Meylor said. "I feel it's paying it forward . . . It's for the future of the school to me."

Nearly 20 volunteers came out on assembly day. They had to deal with rain, but the new playground was successfully built and put in the ground.

Everyone there that day played a role from connecting all the pieces, digging holes, and putting parts of the playground in, to making sure everyone was fed well at lunch.

Along with many things to climb and slide on, and monkey bars, there is also a four-person teeter-totter.

While the school has grades 4K to four, the greater community was considered as well to make use of the playground.

"It's a community playground, too," said Horne.

"It's going to add a lot to our school, our church, it'll be nice to drive by and see, and hopefully it'll bring people here and it'll bring students here," she added.

 
 

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