$500K Gift Provides Five Elementary Schools with First-Time Playgrounds

$500K Gift Provides Five Elementary Schools with First-Time Playgrounds

Big Shoulders Fund Northwest Indiana announced the completion of first-time playgrounds for Catholic elementary schools in Northwest Indiana. Due to the generous $500,000 gift from the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation in late-summer of 2022, as well as a partnership with Indiana-based Kidstuff Playsystems, five Northwest Indiana Catholic elementary schools – all Big Shoulders Fund network schools within the Catholic Diocese of Gary – are receiving first-time playgrounds. Four of the five playgrounds are complete ahead of the upcoming school year at St. Casimir School in Hammond, St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Whiting, St. John Bosco Catholic School in Hammond, and St. Stanislaus School in East Chicago with the fifth and final playground at Aquinas Catholic Community School in Merrillville expected to be completed in fall 2023.

“The Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation is committed to improving the well-being of families in Indiana, and Big Shoulders Fund Northwest Indiana is the perfect partner in pursuing this goal,” said Bill Hanna, executive director of the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation. “It’s extremely exciting to see the playgrounds built and ready in time to be enjoyed by elementary school students this school year.”

The $500,000 commitment from the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation was dedicated to see the creation of five playgrounds at Catholic elementary schools in Northwest Indiana that did not have playgrounds. The Schools within the Catholic Diocese of Gary pride themselves on providing a high-quality, values-based education that educates the whole child, providing social, emotional, spiritual, physical, and culture development in addition to academics to help children grow into well-rounded, productive individuals who go on to better their communities. The brand-new playgrounds will help these schools offer their students a high-quality, safe space to play that supports physical development and strengthens social skills.

“Big Shoulders Fund Northwest Indiana is grateful for the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation as well as Kidstuff Playsystems,” said Dan Kozlowski, managing director of Big Shoulders Fund Northwest Indiana. “Without them, this project wouldn’t have been possible. It’s uplifting to see local organizations come together to make a meaningful, special impact on the community. Especially a project that helps improve the quality of life for our children. These playgrounds are of extremely high quality and will provide a much needed space for students to enjoy a healthy balance of academic learning and playtime.”

The playgrounds were designed, built, and installed by the certified Gary, Indiana-based playground manufacturer, Kidstuff Playsystems. The manufacturer provided each school with a variety of play system options to allow each school to pick the best play system that meets their unique needs. Four out of the five playground installations have been completed and the final playground is expected to be completed in fall 2023.

“Back to school is always an exciting time for our kids and community,” said Nancy Repay, principal of St. John Bosco Catholic School in Hammond, Indiana. “This year, there’s a little extra buzz of excitement as the kids are eager to play on the new playground. I know our whole school community is extremely grateful and overjoyed that our kids now have a playground to exercise, play, and develop their social skills.”

“I can’t wait to play on the new playground with my friends,” said Benzley C., fourth grader at St. John Bosco Catholic School. “It makes me even more excited to go back to school and see all of my friends.”

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