CSU Servant Leadership Playground Project Gets $50,000 Boost

playgroundCOLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University's Servant Leadership senior classes of 2010 and 2011 took a big step closer to their goal of building an "insanely cool playground" by garnering a grant award of $50,000 from the Knight Fund at the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley, Inc.

Students have been working more than two years to raise money for a playground designed to engage students of all abilities but specifically to offer elements of play for children with disabilities. They have already secured a land donation for the playground to be built adjacent to the Columbus Public Library on Macon Road.

Now the students are trying to find money to purchase and install specialized equipment such as playwebs, climbing walls and "first floor" activities that are wheelchair-accessible. The project resonated with advisors to the Fund and Community Foundation officials, who last month decided the playground would receive one of the largest grants they have made from the Knight Fund since its inception in 2002, said Betsy W. Covington, Community Foundation executive director.

"The Knight Fund at the Community Foundation is interested in funding projects in our area that foster the creation of an 'informed, engaged community,'" Covington said. "This playground project is appealing because its location is adjacent to the Columbus Public Library and at the heart of what will become a central gathering point for our community. We were even more attracted to the project because of its inclusive nature. It is our hope that this playground will become a place where people from all walks of life can gather, interact and engage."

The CSU students were obviously excited to learn of the award, said Stuart Rayfield, CSU's Frank Brown Distinguished Chair in Servant Leadership and director of the Servant Leadership program.

"We are so grateful for the generous contributions we have received and look forward to breaking ground on this amazing playground," Rayfield said. "The awarding of this grant from the Knight Fund brings us very close to our goal."

To completely fund the playground, Rayfield estimates they will need $300,000, and have now raised about $200,000.

Once the funding is complete, the playground will be built with the following goals in mind:

• Engage children with many different disabilities.

• Get children off the couch and outside playing fun, interactive games.

• Bring together children from all socioeconomic backgrounds for fun.

• Provide opportunities for parents and children to interact.

• Build community in Columbus.

If anyone is interested in making a donation toward the playground or would like to learn more, contact Stuart Rayfield at rayfield_stuart@ColumbusState.edu or at 706-507-8773.