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Schools: Playground equipment arrives in time for Christmas

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

To find out what the children at the Pawleys Island Child Development Center think about their new playground equipment, you could ask Jayden Simmons. But the 3-year-old won’t come out of the sliding tube because if he did, he would have to go inside and eat lunch with the other kids. Jayden would rather play.

The center moved over the summer from the old Parkersville School next door to a building that most recently served as a sheriff’s office substation. The move prompted a community project to decorate the exterior of the new center with murals. And the Mural Arts Project led to fundraisers that paid for the paint along with the new playground equipment at the nonprofit center.

“It looked like an impossible dream,” said Lillian Reid, the center’s director, as she watched the children play on the new equipment for the first time this week.

The mural artists are working on the third side of the center and the goal is to complete the murals by February. Karen Yaniga, who was in charge of fundraising for the project, agreed the cost of the playground dwarfed that of the murals, but said they went hand-in-hand when it came to raising the profile of the center.

The center will mark its 40th anniversary next month. It has space for 76 children ages 2 through 4, but it hasn’t had more than 30 in recent years, Reid said. There are now 28 enrolled, an increase since the mural got started in September. “It’s all this visibility,” she said.

Although the center only moved across the street, “once I came out and looked back over there, I couldn’t believe we were in there,” Reid said as she looked at the red brick school that dates from the 1950s.

The Mural Arts Project mobilized community artists who developed the designs with input from the center’s staff and the churches that border the center on two sides. Yaniga’s art is raising money. “The response from the community has been wonderful,” she said.

Chico’s and Litchfield Books donated a portion of a weekend’s proceeds to the project. Other businesses donated cash and items to a yard sale. The sale itself raised $2,700, with its timing at the start of December making Christmas decorations a particularly strong seller. It was held in the old school and drew many people who hadn’t been to the area before, Yaniga said.

The project has raised $31,000, with most coming from donations. The center moved most of its equipment from the old building, but it now has a foot of new “playground cushion” mulch around it, as do the new multi-function slides, a four-seat seesaw and a climbing structure.

The children were still talking about it over their lunch of chicken nuggets, applesauce, baked beans and spinach when three students from Coastal Montessori Charter School stopped by. The boys were at the Pawleys Island Child Development Center to drop of a $120 check that they earned as a top team in the charter school’s Beach Blast.

“All the kids were telling me how great the playground was,” said Nate Royal, a fifth-grader. So after a tour of the center, he and Leo Danysh and Logan Tomovski went to see for themselves, along with Nathalie Hunt, the charter director, and Martha Propps, a board member.

“I’ve never seen one like this before,” Hunt said as she examined the seesaw. The charter school is planning a new facility of its own.

The boys researched their options before picking the child development center. “It sounded creative,” said Logan. The other winning team gave its donation to Friendship Place in Georgetown.

Along with finding some of the younger siblings of their classmates, the boys found the center had a lot in common with their Montessori charter school. “They had a lot of really cool material in the classroom,” Nate said.

Their donation will help with paving for a tricycle path through the playground, something the boys agreed seems like a good idea. And with the success of the playground and mural projects, Reid is wondering if the center could raise enough money to get a van. She had to turn down an invitation for her children to visit the charter school because they don’t have transportation.

“What a blessing,” Reid said as Logan handed her the check. “Can I get a hug?”

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