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Grass-roots effort leads to new playground for Hamburg’s Cloverbank Elementary School

A little more than a year ago, the families of Cloverbank Elementary School in Hamburg had a dream to bring a new playground to the children.

“We figured it would take two to three years,” recalled Michele Grime, outgoing chairwoman of the school’s Playground Committee.

The effort began in earnest in May 2012 to raise $120,000 to build a new playground to replace the wooden structure that has become outdated, attracts bees and is difficult for special needs children to use.

The seed for that dream to grow came through a $20,000 donation from Hamburg village jeweler John T. Sharp, owner of Gold & Pearl Studio, who died of cancer in March.

One of Sharp’s neighbors, Jane Brueckl, is a physical education teacher at Cloverbank and had told Sharp about the project. Sharp wanted to help, said Grime and Cloverbank parent Janice Shaver, the committee’s treasurer.

“We were looking to build a playground not just for the students, but the entire community,” Shaver said.

Sharp’s donation “really got the momentum going for us. We were lucky enough to secure a donation from him,” Grime said. “He’s one of the main reasons we were able to raise it so quickly.”

Sharp never got to see the playground come to fruition, but he knew just how much the playground meant to the children. “The kids sent thank-you cards to him,” Grime said. He’d read a few cards each day as he was dying. “He called all the kids his angels,” Grime said.

To raise more funds, supporters have been selling cookie dough and holding faculty basketball games. They held a craft show and two walk-a-thons, too.

So far, the supporters have raised $80,000, which has already been donated to the Frontier School District.

“We’re just thrilled we got this far and are able to do this for the kids and the school,” Grime said. “The donations we received from the community were outstanding.”

The new playground, designed by Miracle, will sport primary and secondary play areas, a fitness circuit, and offer handicapped accessibility. It will have a wide range of different types of swings and feature a sponsor-personalized brick-lined walkway. The playground will be situated behind the school on the same footprint as the existing playground.

Cloverbank has an enrollment of about 600 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade.

The Frontier School District is handling the cost of demolishing the old playground in late September and putting in a surface for the new one. Construction is expected to take place over the course of one to two weeks, by late October. A formal opening or dedication will be planned for next spring.

Parents, businesses, Frontier alumni, the Teachers’ Association and Board of Education all have backed the project. The nonprofit committee is continuing to raise money for donations for a brick walkway that will lead to the playground, and to also help pay for tables and chairs near the play area.

Shaver said the committee hopes to make a stronger push in September to raise more money for the brick walkway, benches and tables.

Perhaps a student’s wish will also be answered – Shaver says one child has requested a chess table.