Kids love revived St. Patrick School playground

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Third grader Stacy Flores-Solis shows that exercise is good for the heart.


Recess means progress at St. Patrick School in Perry, where a successful fundraising campaign by the St. Patrick School Volunteer Special Projects Committee has brought a redesigned and rebuilt playground, complete with kid-friendly new equipment, to the school’s north side school yard.

“The Special Projects Committee is tasked with planning and implementing significant capital improvements to the school,” Committee Co-Chair Matt McDevitt said. “Each year for the past four years, substantial and notable projects have been completed, including a facelift of the school’s south entrance, a school-wide interior painting project, parking lot refurbishment, security enhancements — new solid core interior and exterior doors — the creation of the multi-purpose room, new carpet in the gym, new roller blinds in the elementary rooms and many more.”

This year the committee, chaired jointly by McDevitt, Dick Lundstrom and Bob Smithson, turned its attention to the playground and raised $80,000 for its refurbishment.

“This year’s summer project was solely focused on enacting a dramatic facelift to the playground in response to student and parent feedback and universal Pre-K compliance needs,” McDevitt said. “A more modern, well-kept playground is critical to student and parent satisfaction, student retention and safety.”

Parents, parishioners and Friends of St. Patrick volunteers teamed up for several days — and nights — of work, demolishing the dilapidated equipment, excavating, re-grading and preparing the landscape before installing the new playground items. New to the yard are an additional play set, a two-story Typhoon Slide, a Billy Goat Climbing Rock, a Reflex Wave Slide and a Goal-Setter Basketball Hoop.

All are set upon a flexible, shock-absorbing matting that improves student safety. Additional infrastructure improvements, such as a new decorative steel fence, shed and landscaping, were also part of the redesign.

“The kids are really loving it,” said St. Patrick School Third Grade Teacher Julie Hudnell. “They’re always ready for recess, of course, but this really makes them eager to go, go, go.”

Funding for the $80,000 playground improvements came from a variety of sources, McDevitt said. About 80 percent was drawn from interest income earned on the O’Malley Trust, he said. The trust is overseen by the O’Malley Foundation Board, made up of St. Patrick parishioners interested in the welfare of the school, and by the O’Malley Trust Board of Trustees, composed of direct descendants of the founder of St. Patrick’ School, Nora O’Malley, and her son, the noted journalist and entrepreneur Charles R. O’Malley.

Along with funding from the O’Malley Trust, the project was also supported by donations from the St. Patrick’s of Perry Foundation and the St. Patrick School’s Home and School (PTA) and by grants, business contributions and individual donations, McDevitt said.

“No St. Patrick Church parishioner funding sources have been used to fund any school improvement projects to date, including the playground,” McDevitt said.

Playground fundraising will continue through the fall of 2015, McDevitt said, and tax deductible donations can be addressed to the St. Patrick School Playground Fund, Attn: Principal Latham, 1302 Fifth St., Perry, IA 50220.

Visibly pleased by the success of the playground project, McDevitt extended “very special thanks” to many people “for their incredible effort in transforming the St. Patrick School playground.” Among those thanked were project crew leaders Scott Hughes and Danny Splendore.

Equal gratitude went to crew members St. Patrick School Principal Doug Latham, Dick and Pat Lundstrom, Bob Smithson, Eddie Diaz, Nate Platt, Celso Perla, Jack Butler, Jim Archer, John Splendore, John Spellman, Gary Becker, John Andrews, Trent Andrews, Tony Andrews, Juan Arceo, Tony Consentino, Jim and Marilin McDevitt and Doug Krueger.

McDevitt, who was also on the crew, added the committee is grateful to the project’s business partners: Wiese Manufacturing (Doug Krueger), AccuJet (Kyle Baxter), No Lawn Left Behind (Kevin Wicks), Walton Tree Service (Tim Walton), Haila Architecture (Nathan Compton), Boland Recreation (Mark Boland) and Artistic Iron Works.

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