By Noell Wolfgram Evans
When you tell a kid to “Go outside and play,” where do they go? Children in one Westside neighborhood are about to get a new answer to that question.
The Columbus Preparatory Academy (CPA), located at 3330 Chippewa St., was awarded a grant in November for playground equipment. The grant, in the amount of $15,000 was awarded by Dr Pepper Snapple and KaBOOM!.
The grant the school received was a challenge grant which had two conditions attached to it. The school would need to raise $9,000 in matching funds and the actual playground would need to be built by the community. After much hard work, the matching funds were raised and this month the playground will be erected.
Spearheading the grant process was Lynda Cooksey, a Westside grandmother with two granddaughters currently attending CPA. CPA Principal Brian Carlton applauds Cooksey’s efforts, not just for the school but for the entire community.
“This is a big addition to the school and the community,” Carlton said. “We want people to feel like they can come and enjoy it anytime. Come run and have fun.”
Before any swing can be swung though, some work needs to happen and everyone is invited to pitch in. Build Day will be on May 20 and will start at 8 a.m. Lots of volunteers are needed as are donations of snacks and drinks to help keep the crew “full and happy.” May 21 at noon will be the official ribbon cutting for this new community play place.
For help with the grant and the build, Cooksey and her team fanned out across the Westside and found a number of willing partners including UPS, The Hollywood Casino, and Big Lots. They even found some help from other areas of the city. On Build Day, members of the Columbus Crew organization will be on hand to hang swings, spread mulch, test slides, and do whatever else needs to be done.
The space will not just be for fun; there is a poignant side too. During the grant process, Cooksey met with several student representatives concerning the new playground and in their discussions, the students asked that the playground be dedicated to missing children.
There will be a plaque commemorating this which will have written on it “All Missing Children Come Home and Play.” In addition, there will be landscape timbers on which will be written the names of a missing child.
Cooksey was moved by the student’s request.
“It’s a testament to their being good citizens and learning responsibility,” she said.
CPA has 800 enrolled students and is one of the top performing charter schools in the state.
The school currently has two playgrounds on its 12-acre campus: an older set of equipment and then a “newer” one that is comprised of equipment obtained from North Franklin Elementary School when it closed.
The new playground equipment is being purchased from Burke Playground Equipment. It will be a mix of playground classics and will be ADA compliant so everyone will be able to participate.
KaBOOM! is a national non-profit with a focus on finding ways to engage children, particularly in disadvantaged areas, to get out for active play.
If you are interested in volunteering or able to make a donation, you are asked to contact CPAplayground@gmail.com.