After three years of fundraising, teachers and parents at Lead Mine Elementary School have raised $52,000 in hopes of building a playground for students with special needs.
The North Raleigh school, which has about 580 students, hopes to raise another $15,000 to meet its goal of $67,000 for the project. Lead Mine has been pinching pennies and hosting fundraising events.
Carol Holden, a special-education teacher at the school, helped come up with the idea for the project and presented it to the PTA. She wanted to give some of the students she works with a chance to go outside, which she said is important during the school day.
“You can use your outside voice,” Holden said. “You can have a little bit more fun.”
The PTA agreed to begin donating leftover money at the the end of the year to the playground project.
“We’re trying to be a champion for the kids,” said Lead Mine’s PTA president, Leslie Blackwood. “Every child in our school should have a place to go outside.”
Administrators see the playground as a major step in Lead Mine’s continued commitment to creating an inclusive school.
“We are lucky and we are fortunate to have all students at Lead Mine Elementary,” said principal Aaron Marcin.
Administrators work hard to include students with special needs in all parts of the school community, Marcin said. Students with special needs attend assemblies, go to some regular classes and play with other students when they can.
“But it’s challenging for these children to participate when the areas don’t fit their needs,” Marcin said.
The first part of the playground project would cost about $43,000 and include proper fencing, a cushioned surface and one structure.
After professional contractors do the more expensive work, volunteers can raise money or build smaller features such as planters so students with disabilities can touch and smell plants. The playground will also feature small structures to help students with basic mobility skills, Holden said.
The Wake County school system contributed $20,000, and the PTA raised almost $13,000 for the project. Around Christmas, the school received an anonymous donation of $7,500.
Currently, students with special needs at Lead Mine are restricted to the sidewalks when they go outside, Blackwood said. In some cases, the sidewalks are too steep or damaged for students who use a wheelchair.
Johnna Elstob’s 6-year-old son, Ryan, has a genetic disorder and uses a walker to get around. If he goes to the playground at Lead Mine, he must use a wheelchair, and there aren’t any swings – his favorite activity – that are safe for him to use, Elstob said.
A swing can be a learning tool for Ryan, who doesn’t talk much, his mother said. While on a swing, he will say “stop” and “go.”
“Everybody needs fresh air,” Elstob said. “Everybody needs fun.”
Want to help?
To donate money to Lead Mine Elementary for a playground for students with special needs, contact the school at 919-870-4120.