Hardin Park School has been awarded a health equipment grant for $5,000 by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation to help the school fund an upgraded playground accessible to children with physical disabilities.
“We are extremely pleased to receive this support from the BCBSNC Foundation,” said Hardin Park Principal Mary Smalling. “Our Parent Teacher Organization and our school have been working for ten years to raise money to make our playground accessible to all of our students and this grant is the single largest source of funds we’ve received in all that time. It’s a significant step toward our goal.”
Hardin Park’s campaign for an accessible playground got another boost recently from the school’s decision to encourage contributions to the playground fund instead of holiday gifts to teachers and other employees. Nearly 80 donations were received in honor of teachers, school administrators, teacher assistants, school support staff, and students. However, even with this recent round of donations and the BCBSNC Foundation grant, the school still needs more than $100,000 of additional funds to reach its goal.
The importance of an accessible playground for Hardin Park is heightened by the fact that the school serves students with the most severe disabilities from throughout the school system. With an enrollment of 791 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, Hardin Park is also the largest school in Watauga County other than Watauga High School.
“We place a lot of emphasis on having an inclusive school environment at Hardin Park,” said Smalling, “and we take a lot of pride in how our teachers and students help everyone feel part of the school. We want that feeling to extend to recess and having a more accessible playground is an important part of achieving that goal. That makes us especially grateful for this grant and we’re hopeful that more organizations and individuals will be moved to contribute to the effort.”
Among the children who might benefit from more contributions is nine year old Elli Fielland. Her mother Cyndi Fielland said that having appropriate equipment on the playground would be wonderful for Elli, who loves to be outside. As things now stand, “Elli sits off to the side at recess and watches the other children play because there is a lack of equipment that is appropriate to her abilities. A new playground would be very exciting for us because it would give her access to developmentally appropriate equipment. Above all, it will promote a positive environment for interaction among students of all abilities.”
“There’s been a lot of attention paid to the idea of leaving no child left behind in academic terms,” noted Smalling, “That’s important, but we can’t stop there. If we really want to help all children achieve their full potential, we need our playgrounds as well as our classrooms to be places where no child is left behind.”
Persons interested in contributing to Hardin Park’s effort to complete a more accessible playground are invited to contact Principal Mary Smalling at 828 264-7190.
The BCBSNC Foundation’s grant to Hardin Park reflects its commitment to improving the health and well-being of NC residents. The funds awarded to Hardin Park were received as a component of the Foundation’s focus on increasing physical activity. More information about the BCBSNC Foundation is available at www.bcbsncfoundation.org.