When she finally was allowed to scale the rock-like climbing features of her school’s new playground, 7-year-old Gabby Plane was hooked.
“The first time I climbed up it, it was fun,” said Gabby, who is going into second grade. Gabby was one of a trio of triplets celebrating their birthdays by attending the opening of the playground at Holy Cross School in Charlotte.
Children celebrated the June 3 opening of the Rev. John Patrick O’Malley Memorial Playground with bubbles, balloons and the cutting of a paper chain. And, as soon as the gates opened, they rushed to use the new equipment, which features red, yellow and blue slides, swings and bouncing platforms as well as a rock-climbing wall.
Using pint-sized shovels, students also helped bury a trunk that will serve as a time capsule to mark the school’s 100th anniversary this year. School officials buried the capsule in front of a large metallic cross.
The playground was funded with a $50,000 state grant secured by state Sen. Joe Robach, R-Greece, and $30,000 raised through private fundraising. Robach said he was happy to provide the grant, not only as an alumnus of Holy Cross School who had been baptized in the parish, but also because the playground serves an early childhood center at the school.
The school had a playground in the past, but over the years some of the equipment, such as the former playground’s merry-go-round, had been deemed unsafe, Father Thomas Wheeland, pastor of Holy Cross Parish, said during the opening ceremony. He said the previous playground had been spearheaded by parish priest Father O’Malley, which is why the school decided to name its new playground in honor of him.
“This is a safe playground with safe things for kids,” Father Wheeland remarked.
A committee of volunteers planned the playground, and children at the school took active roles in raising money for it. Fundraisers included a sale of bricks that now make up a path leading toward the playground.
Christine Velte, whose 10-year-old son, Nicholas, is going into fifth grade, said each day last school year he watched with anticipation out his classroom window at Holy Cross as crews delivered equipment and mulch. Led by the children’s enthusiasm, fundraising efforts flew by, she said.
“We thought this was going to take five years to do, and this got done in a year,” she said.