Within the next year, the Kiwanis Club of Greater Woodbury plans to build an inclusive playground for young children of all abilities. Starting on Sept. 14, members hope the public will move them closer to that goal by voting in an online contest.
“We’ve been working on this for a while,” Jim Meehan said.
The Kiwanis member (who will take the helm as president next month) added there have been hurdles along the way – not least of which is the COVID-19 pandemic – but the club has kept its eyes on the prize.
The idea started germinating four years ago, when Kiwanis International marked its 100th anniversary, celebrating the occasion by asking clubs to create Centennial Playgrounds. For a service club dedicated to improving the lives of children, it was a perfect request.
The idea piqued the interest of the 97-year-old Kiwanis Club of Greater Woodbury, and after members discussed it with the person who was then the Woodbury Public School District superintendent, they decided they would not only make a playground, but build it with accessible equipment geared toward preschool-age children – both underserved populations as far as playgrounds are concerned in the greater Woodbury area.
The nonprofit is focusing on putting the playground at West End Elementary School in Woodbury, where the new superintendent, school principal and PTA are all on board to help. With members from throughout surrounding towns (including Mantua, Mullica Hill, West Deptford, Glassboro, Paulsboro and even as far away as Washington Township and Williamstown), the Kiwanis club wanted the playground accessible to more than just Woodbury schoolchildren. Even though it will be at the school, the playground is available for public use after school hours and on the weekends. Ensuring it was open to the public was critical, Meehan explained, because there are few accessible playgrounds in the region. He mentioned Cherry Hill’s Build Jake Place as one of the closest for Gloucester County residents.
The Kiwanis Club of Greater Woodbury is working with Recreation General Inc. for its project, which has increased in price from $65,000 to $100,000. Fundraising has been continuous, with few hiccups over the years – until COVID-19 hit. While the club kept up a connection and moved to virtual meetings over the past six months, there has been no opportunity to fundraise.
Enter the Legacy of Play Contest. Hosted jointly by Landscape Structures Inc. and Kiwanis International, the contest is an opportunity for the Kiwanis club to win $25,000 toward the new playground. There is a two-week voting period starting on Sept. 14, during which members of the public can log in once a day to vote on a favorite project.
The top 10 vote-getters move onto the next round of submitting supplemental information about their project. The winner will be announced Oct. 7, and the playground must be built by October of 2021.
“I’m really anxious to try to take advantage of this,” Meehan said, “and see if we can win.”
Starting Sept. 14, click here to vote for the Kiwanis Club of Greater Woodbury playground. Supporters can vote once a day for the two-week period ending Sept. 27. For more information about the Kiwanis Club of Greater Woodbury, including membership, visit the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kiwaniswoodburynj or call (856) 848-2910.