Project Playground leader Jessica Chicoski and group member Chris Hughes at a celebration for the new playground at New Hartford Elementary School. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Project Playground leader Jessica Chicoski and group member Chris Hughes at a celebration for the new playground at New Hartford Elementary School. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
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NEW HARTFORD —  Nearly three years ago, children had to deal with the playgrounds at the town’s Elementary School and at Bakerville School, which were dilapidated and old.

The playground at the Elementary School included two swing sets, an old metal slide, and a plastic swing that was the only Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) piece of the whole playground.

Bakerville School students did not have it any better, with a playground consisting of an old swing set, a funnel ball game, and a glider set, with none of the equipment being ADA compliant.

This is why a group of parents in the town’s PTO all spearheaded a fundraising campaign to purchase new playground equipment for both schools.

The group, called Project Playground, spent almost three years nonstop organizing fundraisers and receiving donations from various organizations, local businesses, and residents.

The group raised over $160,000 to purchase new equipment for both schools.

But even after raising the funds the organization still had to deal with obstacles.

A fire at the manufacturing company the organization was purchasing equipment from, Playworld of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, cost the company millions of dollars in losses and put a delay on the installation of the playground equipment.

The Bakerville School playground was installed in late August, with the New Hartford Elementary School playground installed four days before school started on August 30.  

On Tuesday, Sept. 28, all of the hard work of the group, along with its donors and volunteers, was celebrated at a grand opening ceremony for both playgrounds, which was held at the New Hartford Elementary School.

“We have had such fantastic support from our local community, from our fundraisers, people donating food or equipment, and people donating their time,” group leader Jessica Chicoski said. “We have been very blessed. New Hartford is not a big town. For people, organizations, and local companies to give the type of money they did and to raise that money, it just proves what a solid community that we have. From the bottom of my heart, I truly thank everybody because we did it. We would not be able to do it without community support.”

“I think the playgrounds for both schools are phenomenal,” New Hartford Elementary School Principal Kelly Carroll said. “It’s impressive that the community came together to not only raise funds but to help build it. The old playground equipment was outdated and boring. The children didn’t have much to do out here in the play area, so they just spent time running around in the field. But now these playgrounds make them active. They are all climbing, swinging, and I have seen a lot of new friendships develop because they are playing on equipment with children they would not normally play with.”

Chicoski added that there are still a few more pieces for the New Hartford Elementary playground that are on backorder.
For more information on Project Playground go to projectplaygroundnewhartford.com

Photos by Shaw Israel Izikson

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