Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange Towns

Jefferson PTA Begins Fundraising for New Playground Equipment


Jefferson School

The outdoor space at Jefferson School in Maplewood was busy and active on a recent Saturday morning as the Jefferson PTA filmed a video to help fundraise for new playground equipment.

A portion of the school’s outdoor equipment was removed sooner than expected this fall after the district determined that it was a hazard. The removal left a fallow pit and a need to speed up fundraising and planning for new equipment.

“We’re hoping to create a 60-second promotional video that we will put on our gofundme page and the Jefferson Playground Project Facebook page,” explained Jen Klepesch, who, along with Mary Ellen Dawkins, Joanna Klein, Sara Knutsen and Karen Palaitis, has formed the Jefferson Playground Project Team.

Four dads with professional media experience — Alexis Robie, Ben Niles, Dave Noll and Evan Fleischer — filmed and interviewed more than 30 Marshall School and Jefferson School students (Marshall teaches children from k-2 who then graduate to Jefferson School for grades 3-5).

“We want the video to illustrate the important role playgrounds play in the development of school-aged children — but from the perspective of our kids,” said Klepesch. “We asked them questions like, ‘What would a world without playgrounds be like?’ and ‘How much do you think a playground costs to build?’ —  and we got some very insightful, and funny, answers.

Klepesch said that a volunteer who works in the video production industry has volunteered to edit the video and is aiming for an early January completion date.

Besides using the video to promote the project on social media beyond the school community, the team also plans to show it in the schools “to get the kids excited and geared up for the fundraising effort,” said Klepesch.

“One thing that the kids were doing [on Saturday] was decorating labels for jars for our Pennies to Play campaign,” she explained. Each classroom in Marshall and Jefferson will have a change collection jar for the project as a “way for a kids to contribute and to feel invested in the project.”

The old playground equipment featured graffiti and rotting wood.
The old playground equipment featured graffiti and rotting wood.

The overall fundraising goal is $100,000. Last year’s PTA seeded $10,000 and almost another $5,000 was raised by the family of student and actor Wyatt Ralff through a private screening of Ralff’s film Wishin’ and Hopin’ at the Maplewood Theater earlier this year.

The short-term goal is to raise $5,000 by the end of December. The team has raised more than $3,000 toward that goal as of December 22.

“Starting in the new year, we will set a new campaign to take us through the spring,” said Klepesch.

Klepesch adds that the removal of the old equipment was fortuitous.

“It took everyone by surprise, but when I look at those pictures of the old playground, it looked so depressing. It was covered in graffiti, broken boards everywhere, rotted wood. It was time.”

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For more information or to get involved, email [email protected].

Click on any photo below to view a slideshow of the Jefferson Playground Project’s video shoot.

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