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HILLSBOROUGH - It's the year of the playground at Hillsborough Elementary.
Designated as such by the Hillsborough Elementary School PTA, the school's modest playground is just weeks and dollars away from a brand-new, age-appropriate play area.
"It's not your traditional playground," said playground committee co-chair Bessie Mbadugha-Keiper. "It's really fitness-oriented."
The Burke Premier Play Environment proposed playground comes with two slides, monkey bars, spinners, climbing nets and more to help students strengthen their bodies while having fun. The equipment even comes with its own curriculum, allowing physical education teachers to integrate it into their lessons.
"It's a 50-by-70-foot area and all of it will be used," said Susan Fenwick, co-chair of the playground committee. "We're taking advantage of that open space."
The open space has been marked off with white lines and a tree that was once in a back corner has been removed. The space that will house the new playground is to the side of the swings already in place and behind the basketball court.
The existing playground equipment, swings and monkey bars, will remain.
The entire project began about a year ago when the need for a new playground was identified. With Jennie McCray being instrumental in the initial planning and fundraising, Mbadugha-Keiper and Fenwick applied for and were awarded a Kaboom! Dr. Pepper Snapple Let's Play Community Construction grant for $15,000 in August.
But the grant money they were awarded was just part of the $50,000 goal. Once people knew the playground would be a reality, the help began to pour in.
"The kids got excited," Fenwick said. "The Read-A-Thon is our primary fundraiser and we used that to announce that we had got the grant."
"The kids are really excited," said Mbadugha-Keiper. "Now that they see the posters, they can't wait."
Krispy Kreme doughnut sales, PTA donations, sponsor solicitation, local companies, an anonymous family foundation, Box Tops collections and the school's fall festival have all contributed to the funds raised so far.
The committee has collected a little more than $48,500 so far, not including the donations from a week-long coin drive or the additional resources that will be needed for the Community Build Day to assemble the playground.
Local architect Christopher Wehrman designed a rendering of the proposed playground and it hangs around Hillsborough Elementary.
"It made our project seem that much more professional," said Fenwick. "When we go to people and explain what we're doing, we've got the plans to show. It's definitely a gift to have someone with that professional background to give us their time."
From 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. on March 8, the HES community will come together for the Community Build Day to build the playground. Stipulated by the grant, the project has to be completed before August and built by volunteers.
And since children under 18 cannot help with the building, they can help with the beautification of the school's grounds including clearing the nature trail.
"There's a sense of 'we're all in this together' and we're getting help from many different venues," said Fenwick.
Fenwick and Mbadugha-Keiper said that Orange County Schools has been very supportive of the project, willing to provide a drainage system, mulching and surfacing of the playground. They are also applying for a $1,000 grant through OCS to help meet the rest of the financial goal.
For information on donating time or money to the Hillsborough Elementary playground, contact the HES Playground Committee at email@example.com