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Grassroots Fundraising Helps Make Playground a Reality

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Copyright 2017 Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne)

 

CHEYENNE — Fundraising has always played an important role when it comes to getting things done in Cheyenne, whether it's through widespread voter-approved efforts like the sixth-penny sales tax ballot or through smaller-scale individual efforts.

Even so, it's hard to overstate just how important grassroots fundraising has been for the universally accessible playground now underway at Cahill Park in northeast Cheyenne. Not only is the city expecting the full project to be done by May 15, but the overwhelming majority of the funding for the project has come from grants and local donations.

The notion of a project funded by community donations is not necessarily a new one, according to Teresa Moore, the planning manager for Cheyenne's Parks and Recreation Department.

"Romero Park (in south Cheyenne) was another project where we had considerable grants and donations," Moore said. "But with Romero, I think there were more grant sources, and they were larger in nature; and the donations that came in were larger in nature and mostly corporate."

The Cahill Park playground is different, she said, in that small-scale contributions have played a much larger role. In fact, of the project's total $1.3 million cost, Moore expects the city's share of that may ultimately total just $200,000. Everything else, she said, was thanks to grants and the community's own generosity.

The most recent big push for donations has come from Dave Woods of the local Sunrise Lions Club, who has been working to secure a grant from Lions Club International that would match up to $100,000 in local donations. To date, Moore said collections being made toward that effort have exceeded $62,000, and she expects another local service group to chip in an additional $10,000 within the next week.

"I think we're going to be pretty close (to meeting the $100,000 match)," Moore said. "I would say any dollars that can be raised is better than where we would be sitting otherwise. But the public has been very responsive, and it's really been heartwarming seeing the people who walk in off the street to give, whether it's $2 or $2,500."

Moore said local service groups have continued to play a major role in the grassroots effort. In addition to next week's anticipated donation, Moore said the local arm of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, the X-JWC, recently donated $5,000 to the effort.

"We were so impressed with the project; we thought it was really very community oriented," said Kathleen Peterson, membership chairwoman for the X-JWC. "We liked the fact it targeted all designations of community members, not specifically one group of kids. We followed it from the beginning and said, 'That's something we want to make sure we give money to.'"

Normally, she said, the X-JWC designates two recipients for its fundraising efforts each year. But this year was different, given the potential to have any funds for the playground doubled thanks to the Lions Club's grant.

"The $5,000 was raised just this year," Peterson said. "Normally we would have set aside $2,500 for this project and $2,500 for another project. But we thought it would be better to use both amounts for the playground, as opposed to splitting it."

Thanks to many similar efforts in the same vein, the universally accessible playground is expected to include all of the features originally planned for it. In addition to the playground itself, which is designed to be used and enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age or ability, the playground will also feature several other educational and recreational features.

These include a semicircular walking path with informational kiosks on Cheyenne's transportation history,

adult fitness pods and an outdoor classroom with rocks and sunshade. Initially the city expected the playground would be built first, and the extra features added at some later date once the funds were raised.

But given the extra costs associated with Reiman Corp. finishing the job, then having to restart it, Moore said the city instead opted to have Reiman build the whole thing in one go.

"In order to not slow the project down and have him pull off then demobilize, the city fronted the money to modify the contract to move forward with the project in its entirety," Moore said.

Now, however, it looks like most of the money fronted by the city will be recovered, thanks to the community's grassroots fundraising, meaning those funds will go back into the Parks and Recreation coffers to be used for other necessary maintenance.

Though Reiman expects to be finished with the entire project by May 15, Moore said the city is planning a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony for the playground at 8 a.m. June 10, giving one final opportunity to recognize the many people who helped make the playground a reality.

 

James Chilton is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's local government reporter. He can be reached at jchilton@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3182. Follow him on Twitter at @JournoJChilton.

 

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