Verbena raises $13K for new playground

Published 4:54 pm Friday, October 26, 2012

The top six students who raised the most money for the Verbena playground pose after being crowned.

Verbena High School reading coach Sue Ellen Gilliland reminded a group of elementary students from the Verbena Annex on Oct. 26 that hard work, dedication, cooperation and generosity are the keys to succeed.

“It only takes one person with a vision who is determined and willing to work hard to inspire others to make a difference,” Gilliland said.

Gilliland led the Harvest King and Queen Fundraiser Assembly on Friday to honor the community effort of students, teachers and parents who set a goal to raise money for new playground equipment at the annex.

Gilliland explained the idea started when parents of the children at the Annex started discussing the possibility of updating the playground.

“It started with a vision that one person had and then turned into a community effort,” Gilliland said.

Originally, school custodian Angela Hayes came up with the idea to put on a school play with all of the proceeds from the play going toward the playground project.

“I used the book ‘Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type’ by Doreen Cronin as the idea for the play, and we just had a really great response from the community,” Hayes said. “We raised more than $400 in admission fees just from the school play and everyone had a great time putting it on.”

Gilliland started researching equipment costs on Craigslist, eBay and other popular websites to have a better gauge of how much a playground would cost.

“I knew we were a small community with a very small school, “Gilliland said. “I knew our budget would be very tight, but I wanted to just see what was available price wise to give us sort of a goal to know what we were working with.”

Gilliland found that by raising $12,000, new playground equipment could be purchased for the community to enjoy.

With the success of the play and the continued desire for the playground to improve, people throughout Verbena started working toward raising the funds to accomplish their goal.

“It was amazing to see how the community stepped up,” Gilliland said. “We had so many people working to make sure this would happen due to so many people who genuinely care about this community.”

With the foundation for the playground, students in each of the classes at the Annex were challenged to raise funds for the playground in conjunction with donations from Woodmen of the World ($500) and the McGriff family ($1,000).

Gilliland and Verbena principal Robin Cagle gathered the students in a special fundraiser assembly to announce whether they had met their goal.

A throng of tiny hands erupted in the air when Gilliland asked how many thought the goal had been reached.

After several moments of suspense, Gilliland revealed that $13,146 was raised for the new playground.

“We did it,” Gilliland said. “We raised enough money.”

Gilliland recognized numerous sponsors from residents and businesses throughout Chilton County who helped in the effort including the various elementary classes who worked together to meet the goal.

The top six students who raised the most money for the playground were:

second grader Austin Cochrane, kindergartner Andy Drake, first grader Jaycee Quinn, first grader Bryson Smith, kindergartner Cameron Mefford and kindergartner Mattie Whittle. Mefford was recognized as the 2012 Harvest King for raising $1,400, and Whittle was crowned the 2012 Harvest Queen for raising $2,218.34.

Both Mefford and Whittle said they raised the money with the help of their parents ,who called local businesses and politicians asking for donations.

“I think everyone worked really hard for this project because as a parent you want the best for your children and the children in the community,” Gilliland said. “When you involve yourself in the area you live, you want to make sure you have the best for that area, and we can’t wait for the new playground.”

Although no dates have been officially set for the playground to be installed, Gilliland hopes it will be sometime near the end of the semester.