The enticement of a brand-new playground delighted students, faculty and parents alike at St. Catherine Labouré School in Harrisburg this week, with its expanded footprint and new apparatuses for climbing, swinging, balancing and sliding.
Coordinated by the school’s PTO with an initial $25,000 deposit toward the $100,000 cost, the playground project began in earnest last fall and united teachers, parents and parishioners in an effort to expand students education through play.
Last month, a group of volunteers that included parents and faculty dedicated hours of labor on several weekends to enlarge the former playground area in the back corner of the parking lot, assemble the new equipment and build a number of accompanying picnic tables.
Kicking off the school day on May 10, the entire student body eagerly gathered at the edge of the mulch-laid grounds for its blessing and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“Children playing are a sign of God’s blessing. We’re thankful to God for this playground, for the PTO which provided and funded it, and for all of the hard work of the parents and volunteers that installed it,” Father James Lease, pastor, said during the ceremony.
The playground is poignantly fitted with a new Buddy Bench, in memory of second-grade teacher Jill Demmel, who died in October.
“One of her wishes was always to have a Buddy Bench for students to sit on if they had to work out a problem, to sit on if they didn’t have someone to play with, or just to sit on and be friends with one another,” principal Jodi Reagan remarked.
Demmel’s husband, Robert, and daughters Ashley and Lauren were present for the blessing of the bench, during which Reagan read a tribute to the late teacher for her “beautiful, compassionate memories of every child.”
At the conclusion of the blessing, all students enjoyed the opportunity to begin exploring the new playground.
“Boys and girls, this is a gift to you for all of you to enjoy,” Father Lease told them. “Remember to share and to help each other enjoy it and grow in friendship.”
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness