The fifth graders found it unfair that some students were not able to participate in recess due to a lack of accessible playground equipment.
At Glen Lake Elementary School, recess can be a bittersweet experience. While there is plenty to do, not all students have the same opportunities to participate. Unfortunately, there is no wheelchair merry-go-round, swings, or other adaptive playground equipment to accommodate children with physical disabilities. This was something that didn't sit right with Betsy Julien's fifth-grade class, reports CBS News. "It just didn't seem fair that some kids were just left out," said Wyatt Feucht. Me'Ayila Priere chimed in: "It's really sad to see other kids go through that." Rhys Riley agreed, adding: "They didn't look happy, and recess is about having fun."
Determined to give every student the opportunity to have fun during recess, the youngsters decided to take matters into their own hands. They asked Julien why they couldn't just purchase the equipment themselves, to which she replied: "Do you know how much that costs?! It costs a lot of money." Julien estimated that the total cost would be around $300,000.
Undeterred, the students began fundraising. They started collecting spare change, held bake sales, printed flyers and went door-to-door asking for donations. They even got restaurants to donate a portion of their profits. After months of work, their efforts paid off and they hit their goal with the help of the Glen Lake Parent Teacher Organization. The students were elated, but the kids who will benefit the most from the new playground appreciated the effort even more.
A school didn't have an inclusive playground. Students stepped in to raise $300,000 to build one. https://t.co/2a9JdmA6Ue via @cbseveningnews— David Montero (@DaveMontero) January 20, 2023
"I felt emotionally melted. I don't have any words for what I was feeling at that very moment," said John Buettner, a fifth grader who uses a wheelchair. "When I heard those words, I, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret here. I almost started crying. Like, I teared up. And hearing those words come from the principal of the school really tells me that this is going to happen." Julien was also moved, saying: "My future as an adult is bright knowing that this generation of students, of changemakers, sees something that needs fixing and they go for it headfirst."
An anonymous donor played a huge part in the kids hitting their fundraiser goal. The donor, who reportedly also has accessibility challenges, donated a whopping $200,000 to the school after hearing about the student's efforts in the news.
Everyone was overwhelmed with emotion when they heard the principal of the school announced that they had enough money to purchase a merry-go-round and accessible swing for the playground. The money raised allowed for the first step in creating a playground for all children, regardless of ability. John and his best friend Shujaa Kutto were delighted to know that their wheelchair-bound friends would now be able to join in the fun. The students' fundraising efforts have been so successful, the children are now planning to expand the playground even further. They hope to raise enough money to build a full playground, which can cost up to a million dollars. With the children's hard work and dedication, they are making sure that everyone can have fun on the playground.