Students loving new playground at St. Joseph School
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Fri., Jun. 10, 2011
Late last fall, University of Connecticut senior and ROTC Cadet Eric Paliuca raised money and began the process to install a playground at St. Joseph School in Vernon.
Paliuca obtained a grant for $10,000, and lined up the project parameters, installing two tetherball sets himself.
The project was supposed to be completed last December, but the ground quickly became too frozen (and soon after, snow-covered).
“Just at the time we were about to do it,” said St. Joseph Principal Kathy Peck, “it started to freeze, so they couldn't excavate. Then we had the winter with all the snow.”
But, Paliuca battled the harsh winter and less-than-perfect spring to see the project completed on May 26 – just after his graduation, and just before he prepared to ship off to Hawaii and then on to Virginia for duty.
Paliuca attended the opening of the playground, and the children thanked and hugged him. Several students and their parents stayed after school to play on the new playscape, and Paliuca stayed to join the fun.
“He showed the kids how to do chin-ups and different exercises on the equipment,” said parent Stephanie Wearne, who helped select the playground equipment, along with her husband. “[Paliuca] was very happy to see how excited and grateful all the kids were.”
“Kids have been loving it and playing on it ever since,” said Peck. “It's nice that the cadets did it for us. They love it.”
Peck added that the school had to stagger recess time, in order to accommodate the popularity of the new playground.
“We ended up having to set up a schedule for the classes to take turns on it,” she said, adding that the after-school program at the school also utilizes the playscape.
“It gets used from morning until 5:30 in the afternoon,” said Peck.
The school also plans to raise funds and add to the playground.
“All we had was blacktop before,” said Peck. “And it's also expandable. There are a couple more pieces we'd like to add.”