WOONSOCKET – When Amy Thibault was a fourth grader at Bernon Heights Elementary School, a hopscotch grid on the pavement was all that passed for outdoor recreational facilities.
Now her daughter is a third grader at Bernon Heights, and this is what they have: Zippo. You know, as in nothing.
“They don't even have a hopscotch anymore,” says the secretary for the Bernon Heights PTO. “The children currently play on a blacktop and in a field adjacent to the parking lot.”
All that could change if the PTO wins a $25,000 Pepsi Refresh Project grant to build a new playground, says Thibault.
She filled out the application for the grant, but she can't win it alone.
Pepsi donates $1 million a month for scores of community improvement projects across the nation that register on its Pepsi Refresh Project web site. The winners are chosen, in part, on the basis of how many people log onto the site to cast votes in support of the projects.
Until Aug. 31, anyone can log onto the site and vote in favor of the Bernon Heights playground concept as often as three times a day, according to Thibault.
“It's definitely going to be a challenge but if we can rally the troops it's definitely a possibility,” she says. “We have a really dedicated PTO and a strong group of parents so we're really getting the word out to the community.”
To vote, log on to www.refresheverything.com/playground4bernon . Register with the site and vote for the “idea.”
To amp up their voting power, supporters can collect “Power Vote” codes from specially-marked Pepsi products at retail stores. The codes can be entered on the web site to give extra votes to the playground application.
Some 430 children attended Bernon Heights last year, making it one of the most populous elementary schools in the district. But the nearest ballfields or play facilities are located at the Bernon Park – too far away to make outdoor recreation a practical part of the school day, says Thibault.
The PTO has been talking about rectifying the situation for some two years by building a school based playground at Bernon Heights. There's plenty of room for one, but not enough money, she says.
The PTO has raised about $5,600 to get started, but the project remains in the planning stages. The PTO won't even start focusing on details like what kind of equipment it wants or what its total project budget should be until members raise substantially more money.
“We know it's going to be a long process and a lot of hard work, but we're looking to some things like Pepsi Refresh that would bring in a large amount of money and give us a jumpstart,” says Thibault.