Leighton Elementary, Oswego communities band together for playground initiative

Members of the Oswego High School Varsity Football Team pitched in this weekend to help renovate the Leighton Elementary playground, one of many organizations who came together for the years-in-the-making effort. The Leighton Home and School Association raised more than $55,000 for the project, which includes new equipment, landscaping and refurbishing of existing structures in what organizers called a “phenomenal” effort by the entire community.Over the course of two days this weekend, dozens of Oswego City School District community members transformed the Frederick Leighton Elementary School playground in the culmination of a years-long effort spearheaded by a group of dedicated volunteers and generous local donors.
As the result of the effort that raised more than $55,000, the Leighton Home and School Association was able to install several new play apparatuses, landscape and overhaul the area surrounding the playground and refurbish the existing structures.
“We’ve been slowly and steadily raising support and to be able to do this is just phenomenal,” said Mary Ann Preston, who began looking into opportunities to improve the playground when her daughter was a Kindergarten student at Leighton.
Now, six years later, Preston said the “alignment of funding is so exciting,” as volunteers from the Home and School Association, Leighton staff and families, Oswego High School varsity athletes, students from SUNY Oswego’s Johnson Hall and other individuals and organizations worked throughout Friday and Saturday to give the playground its first renovation in nearly 30 years.
The project recently received a $20,000 grant from the Richard S. Shineman Foundation, and $15,000 KaBOOM! Build It Yourself grant, funded by Dr Pepper Snapple Group through its Lets Play initiative, as well as significant support from the City of Oswego, Pathfinder Bank, Stewart’s Shops, Parkitects, I Heart Oswego, Pizza Villa, Dunkin Donuts and Ontario Orchards.
Lowe’s of Oswego chose the Leighton playground renovation as a “Lowe’s Heroes” program this year and along with providing more than a dozen volunteers, contributed much of the lumber used in the project.
Leighton students also contributed through sustained can-and-bottle drives and loose change collections, as well as voting on what types of equipment they would like to see installed.
“It’s been amazing to see the kids so involved and any time you get an opportunity to do a revitalization project like this, it builds community pride,” said Jackie Wallace, President of the Leighton Home and School Association. “They work so hard in the classroom and now they have a great opportunity to just be kids and enjoy this new playground.”
Organizers said they hoped to continue to improve the playground in the future, adding more challenging structures for older elementary students.