Nov. 25, 2014. After years of student injuries on the Blowing Rock School playground, the future looks bright with the re-opening of the rejuvenated playground in the spring of 2015. Begun by the 2013-2014 Blowing Rock School PTO and the leadership of PTO Board Member Kevin Tincher, the rejuvenation of our playground has made huge strides thanks to donations, volunteers, donated services and donated materials. This project is entirely dependent on volunteers and donations and is not funded by the Town of Blowing Rock or Watauga County.
The new playground was designed by Ron Cutlip, a professional Landscape Architect and Blowing Rock School parent who is also serving as Construction Manager. Cheryl Cutlip serves as Playground Chair coordinating a variety of activities with volunteers, contractors and fundraising activities. Britt Medley is Playground Vice-Chair, John Speckmann serves as Director of Finance and Karyn Kennedy Herterich is the Fundraising Chair. Local professional photographers Kirstin Espinosa and Phyllis Shore provide photography that helps promote the project and document its progress and Lee Ryan serves as Publicity Chair. Additional Playground Team members include Principal Patrick Sukow, Cheryl Gocke, Allison West, Santiago Espinosa, and Paula Medley.
On June 14, just after the end of the 2013-2014 school year, equipment brought in by Britt Medley began the official playground rejuvenation with the removal of some of the older pieces of playground equipment. Throughout the summer and fall of 2014, an enormous amount of work was accomplished:
- old equipment has been removed
- the playground surface area sculpted
- the picnic shelter has been expanded
- a large, curved retaining wall installed
- the large new playground structure installed
- existing equipment has been restored
- sidewalks created
- 4 truckloads of donated perennials from The Mustard Seed Market planted
Early in 2013, a 1931 Model A Roadster antique vehicle donated by Mr. Medley was put up for raffle and generated over $33,000 in raffle ticket sales. The Raffle was held at Town Tavern on September 1, 2014 and won by Jimmy Robbins of Lenoir. This raffle provided a huge boost to the fundraising efforts.
Local resident and business owner Karyn Kennedy Herterich stepped up to help promote the raffle and became an official member of the Playground Team as the Fundraising Chair. Donations from The Ethel and W. George Kennedy Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Ted Couch, Elizabeth Muraro Dunaj, Patricia Mauldin, and Elizabeth Patterson provided a boast of $75,000 towards the playground’s fundraising goal.
In the fall of 2014, grants from the Blowing Rock Community Foundation and St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church were received. Many local businesses and organizations have also made contributions: Town Tavern, United Community Bank, Dr. Adam Hill DDS, Blowing Rock Rotary Club, 4 Forty Four Inc., Westglow Spa, Linville Resorts and Blowing Rock Fire Auxiliary #1122.
In September 2014, an online fundraising effort was initiated – “Square Feet for Small Feet” –https://fundly.com/square-feet-for-small-feet. This fundraising effort will be undergoing a revision in late November to extend the campaign through mid-March.
A recent donation of $100,000 from the Farris Foundation has made the re-opening the playground in the spring of 2015 a reality. This surprise grant has put smiles on all the faces of the playground team and school administration. According to Principal Patrick Sukow, “We are humbled and extremely grateful for this huge boost to the Playground Rejuvenation which will now make it possible to re-open the playground in the spring. The day the playground re-opens will likely be the most exciting day for students for the 2014-2015 school year.”
Through grants, direct contributions, the 1931 Model A Roadster Raffle and Square Feet online donations, the project has raised well over $200,000 since the spring of 2013 through November 2014. The project is grateful for the support of so many parents and local community members and organizations.
The project is approximately $30,000 away from fully funding the rubber surfacing and artificial turf needed to complete the playground. More information on the playground project, including all the many local businesses that have contributed to the rejuvenation of the playground, visit http://blowingrockschoolplayground.com.