The school was digging through some storage several years ago and came across a “found treasure.” Three boxes of T-shirts were gathering dust in storage, saying ‘Playground Pals’ referring to a major project long forgotten. In 2004, PTA Co-President Joanne Borrus and chairperson of the Playground Committee and Susan Hannabury, the PTA Co-President along with then-principal Kathleen Higgins and teachers Lili Castle and Megan St. Pierre, led a dynamic fundraising initiative
Over two years, this project raised an incredible $100,000 to replace a 15 year-old wooden play set. But the cost wasn’t simply for new playground equipment. Half of the 100k was for structural work. The hill was leveled out and the retaining wall even had to be built. And the other $50,000 was for equipment. The Clifford play scape was donated from a family in Hamden who had won it at a raffle and didn’t want it! The school hosted two fun evenings. Each Silent Auction raised about $12,000 and were well attended by parents. Leon Collins from WTNH Channel 8 also helped with publicity and fundraising.
According to Ms. Borrus, now a BOE member, “It was a fun, but long project with multiple obstacles along the way, hitting ledge, having to blast down to rebuild the stairs entering the back of the building, until the building met code which nearly delayed the first day of school.” On Election day the children participated in an election to vote on three different playscape designs, with actual booths set up where the children received I voted today stickers. Other key parts of the projects were; all of the children in the schools put their initials around the wall, and The Super Helpers did the gardens and landscaping around the playground.
More recently grass was added to the playground, as well as additional wood chips. A walking track and blacktop area for popular games such as 4 square, hopscotch and jump rope were also added. Rumors went back and forth regarding whether plumbing for a water fountain had been installed in 2006, during the initial renovation. Happily, the piping was confirmed and a drinking fountain was put in place to complete the project.
Flash forward to late 2013, a small but dedicated group of PTA parents led by Cristy “Can-do” Cantu, Stephanie Carvin, Robin Comey and community member and mother of a disabled child, Katy Blanchette fundraised the necessary resources to replace the outdated Hammer Field Playground (Phase I) and make it the first handicapped accessible playground in Branford. This playground is located across the street from the school and heavily used not only by Sliney students but by the entire community. Sliney school PTA led the way to have it replaced in record time by Sept. 2014. Alex Paluzzi, Director of Recreation, was critical to our efforts in building community support so we could garner a $73,000 commitment from the Town of Branford.
Currently, we are in Phase 2 of the Hammer Field project to replace the toddler playground to the rear of the fields. Designs are chosen and we are fully funded. We are waiting till details are worked out on the community house restoration project. More to come….