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Students offer thanks for new playscape

The new playscape at Memorial Elementary School. Reminder Publications photo by Debbie Gardner
By Debbie Gardner

PRIME Editor/Staff Writer

WILBRAHAM The children sang songs, read poems, and even created a cheer.

But the third graders and their poster said it all.

"Thank you PTO from the bottom of our hearts we love our new playground!" shouted the students in unison.

It may have been a cold, grey day, but the mood of the crowd was warm and welcoming when PTO members, sponsors, school staff and the student body of Memorial Elementary School gathered outside to thank the people responsible for the school's new playground.

"We're glad the weather cooperated with us and so many of our sponsors could be here," said Sharon Dufour, vice president of the Memorial School PTO as she opened the playground's official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Dec. 14.

"I know you've been enjoying the playground," Dufour said to the children, acknowledging that students had already been using the new swings and playscape for about two weeks. "It's only possible through the hard work of the PTO and the support of our sponsors. We were able to raise seventy-five percent of the money for this playground in just five months, thanks to our sponsors."

And thank the sponsors Memorial School did, as students from each grade level took turns participating in the ceremony by presenting their own gratitude projects.

Following the student presentations, playground sponsors Peter Bell, vice president of marketing for Friendly's Ice Cream Corporation, Elissa Langevin, assistant vice president of the Wilbraham branch of Hampden Bank, School Committee representative Gilles Turcotte and his wife, Ann, and Dr Michael Margolis of Margolis Orthodontics stepped forward to cut the ribbon.

According to Dufor, Friendly's contributed $10,000 toward the construction of the playscape. "Our corporate philosophy is to really give back and support the communities in which we operate," Bell told Reminder Publications in a post-ribbon-cutting interview. "There was a real need here," he continued. "The old [playground equipment] didn't have the type of activities this one does."

Dufour also said she especially wanted to recognize the efforts of the playground's second major sponsor, the Wilbraham Junior Women's Club, which contributed $5,000 to help the PTO reach their fund-raising goal, and Christina Gagnon, assistant treasurer for the Hampden-Wilbraham School District, who assisted the PTO in managing the money for the playground.

And, she gave a credit to the students at Memorial, who contributed their own money through penny drives, as well as a group of students at Mile Tree School who contributed an extra quarter of their lunch money toward the new playscape.

"We had a little girl [at Memorial] who brought in $5 of her own money because she wanted a new playscape," Dufour said.

Among the other sponsors who helped the PTO reach their $40,000 goal were: Monson Savings Bank; Marc G. Zirakian; Dr. & Mrs. Vincent Trimboli; Pediatric Dental Associates; Peyton & Connor Leveillee; Smith & Wesson; Hampden Bank; Country Bank; Off The Record Research, Pediatric Services of Springfield, Inc. and the Rotary of Wilbraham-Hampden.

In addition, the PTO project received financial support from: Christopher & Matthew Jusczyk; Curves of Wilbraham; Home Depot of Wilbraham; Kitchen Encounters, Inc.; Mary Clare & Grace Crochiere, Mr. & Mrs. Terry Axtmann; NEPM; Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine; Sign Techniques, Inc.; the Canto Family; the Fisher Family; The Gaudreau Group; the Lachenmeyer/Aquilino Family; the Marconi Family, the Peters Family and the Roach Family.