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Grab Your Checkbook

thumbs_panaramic-hope-park-2“$450,000. That’s what we need. What we’ll raise! ” Ashley announced. I took a deep breath and struggled not to raise my eyebrows. I was surrounded by twenty young mothers and a few dads. Mothers with babies in arms. This was a meeting of people interested in building a new all inclusive Cookeville playground. Ashley had invited me to attend, and I was the only person there who had gray hair, except for the City of Cookeville staff member.

It was September 2014 and work had already been done. Ashley Swann and Kelly Swallows convinced the City of Cookeville to donate land and maintain the playground. And they had talked with Jeff Davidson, director of Rising Above Ministries, who had researched all-inclusive playgrounds for all age groups.

During the meeting, Kelly presented an update on playground designs from Leathers and Associates, a company that has built more than 3000 playgrounds in all fifty states. She shared pictures of playgrounds that are safe and provide physical and imaginative play. Then Kelly pointed to corners of the city council room for each committee to gather and make plans. Volunteers. Special events. Publicity. Fundraising. I dragged my chair toward the fundraising group, where Ashley thought I could provide suggestions.

“Ok, anyone got ideas how to get money?” Elizabeth Binkley, the committee chair, asked. The moms threw out ideas. Sell t-shirts. Collection canisters at schools. Golf tournaments. A gala. Again, I breathed deeply. My limited fund-raising knowledge told me that to raise $450,000 there’d be a plan to secure a donation of $100,000, two $50,000, and look for donors for $20,000 and $10,000.

“So how much money do you have now? What’s promised?” I asked.

“About $33,000. Money raised for a playground years ago,” Elizabeth said. Money raised by a Kids Kingdom committee and given to the City of Cookeville to be used solely for a downtown community playground. “We’ll raise the rest. We want everyone in Cookeville to participate and feel like this is their playground.”

Now it’s eight months later and these get-it-done mommas and their families have worked hard. They’ve called on stores, restaurants, factories, banks –most Cookeville businesses. Through an All in for Ten campaign, they collected $24,000, with some children giving ten pennies and most people giving $10. They held a Gangster Gala and raised $55,000. Fam Fest brought in $6,300. Churches have made donations: $90,000 and $25,000. The largest business or individual donation has been $24,000; the least, 10 cents. Another event, Touch the Truck, is planned for June 13.

Here’s the bottom line: $350,000 has been raised. Another $100,000 is needed by mid-July! The Heart of the City Playground will be built by volunteers, led by personnel from Leathers and Associates, at Dogwood Park September 29- October 4. It will be a 12,000 square foot fully accessible, all-inclusive enclosed playground where you will take your children and grandchildren. If another $100,000 is not raised, some play equipment will not be included.

It’s time for all of us – parents and grandparents – to grab our checkbooks! Contributions are tax-deductible and can be made at www.HeartOfTheCityTN.com or mail a check, made out to Cookeville Community Playground, to Cookeville Playground, 370 S. Lowe Ave, A-391, Cookeville, TN 38501. On the website or on Facebook (Heart of the City Playground), pick out something, such as a Pirate Ship or fence pickets, that you can fully fund.

I can’t wait until October to take my Grands to the playground! A playground that will be built because a group of young mothers raised $450,000 – their way. I salute these women and I’m writing a check. Let’s all jump on this bandwagon!

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