2016-12-22 / Editorial

Season of giving needed for school playground

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

Between the constant bell ringing at the grocery store for the Salvation Army to sending cheer to children in need with Toys for Tots and everything in between, this is a season of giving; the true spirit of the holidays.

A collection of local musicians under the joint name Tri-City All Stars along with a group of PTO parents are spearheading a fundraising effort to give students at Loranger Memorial and Jameson Elementary schools in Old Orchard Beach something Santa won’t be able to fit under the tree – a new playground.

Both schools are in desperate need of an update. They need quality playground equipment that is up to today’s safety standards. The newest parts of the playgrounds were installed more than 20 years ago while the oldest parts of the playgrounds are more than 40 years old. It’s simply not made to last that long, particularly because of the material it was made with. Older wooden playgrounds across the country are being replaced with newer, safer and longer lasting materials such as metal and plastic.

Tri-City All Stars consists of accomplished local musicians including Charles Yoho, Clay Bonks Plunk, Dan Merrill, Joseph T. McLaughlin, Mookie Collins, Ted Warner, Keenan Wakem, Anni Clark, John Martinez, Skippy Scott Lank and saxophonist George Shabo. Shabo also happens to be assistant principal at Loranger. The band recorded a brand-new song to promote the effort and get folks to donate to an online page. They performed “Christmas by the Sea” in a music video that is available on the GoFundME page and the Facebook pages of both schools. The song was written, recorded and produced by Yoho, who is a member of the band. The upbeat eclectic song features each of the performers’ playing styles, including rock, rap, blues and folk.

I interviewed the band for this piece and for my TV show on Biddeford Public Access and let me tell you, they are a fun, passionate bunch. Many of the band members either went through Old Orchard Beach schools, taught there or have kids is the system. They were inspired after hearing about the students holding a mock election to determine the playground need. In November, Loranger grade five students conducted a mock election with student led referendum questions as part of a cross-curriculum unit that involved math, language arts and social studies. One question on the ballot asked if voters approved updating the playgrounds with much needed modern equipment. It wasn’t a big surprise that students and teachers voted overwhelmingly in favor of upgrading the playgrounds. Students in favor of the referendum even wrote eloquent letters to the superintendent of RSU 23, John Suttie, urging him to consider supporting a fundraising effort to purchase new playground equipment. Superintendent Suttie supported the cause, as did the RSU 23 School Board. This resulted in the PTO getting involved and kick starting this fundraising campaign.

This harkens back to the days of our Young School playground needs in Saco. The Saco Parks and Recreation Department sought a Kaboom grant that helps with revitalizing playgrounds to promote healthy lifestyles of young people. On top of receiving this grant, many people, including local Rotary groups, came together to build Young School’s current playground. I was on the crew with my fellow Rotarians and it was quite an undertaking, but so worthwhile to see the smiling faces of the kids who use it every day. Maybe a grant could be in their future in OOB, but getting community support for this new playground will be critical moving forward. It would be great to see kids get outside, put down their phones, and interact with one another. It’s an important part of growing up.

You can learn more information about the Playground Fund and donate at https://www.gofundme.com/oobschools playground-equipment.

Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, OOB, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is owner of Chenette Media LLC, a multimedia public relations company, and is the president/CEO of the Saco Bay Center of Civic Engagement, a 501c3 nonprofit service organization. Follow updates at www.justinchenette.com, Facebook.com/JustinChenette, and Twitter.com/ JustinChenette.

Return to top