Playground gets a boost from Cheney Foundation
MEDFORD — A charitable foundation based in Tacoma, Wash., has agreed to provide $1,260 to complete a fully wheelchair-accessible playground at east Medford's Hoover Elementary School.
The Ben B. Cheney Foundation, named for the man who founded the Cheney Lumber Co. in the 1930s, is expected to send the money this week to the school's parent-teacher organization to help pay for a wheelchair ramp railing that turned out to be longer and more expensive than expected. The ramp is the main entry point for wheelchairs to the playground as well as the way up to the main play structure.
"Kids are definitely a priority for the Cheney Foundation," said Carol Lewis, the foundation's grants manager. "Seeing a project that is so close to being finished, it's an exciting move on our part to be able to put them over the top."
Ken Ristine, the foundation's senior program officer, read a Mail Tribune article Wednesday about the need for more money to complete the railing, which is needed to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
He shared the story with Brad Cheney, president of the foundation's board of directors and Ben Cheney's son, who, in turn, asked the foundation to award the Hoover PTO a grant to finish the playground.
"We had an amazing response," said Katie Tso, Hoover PTO member. "Work (on the railing) is going on now."
The railing has to be 94 feet long, 24 feet longer than the PTO had anticipated, Tso said. At a cost of $52.50 per foot, the railing will cost $4,935, but the PTO had budgeted only $3,700, she said.
The PTO raised $121,000 in cash and in-kind donations over more than two years to establish the completely wheelchair-accessible playground at the school, 2323 Siskiyou Blvd. The playground concept was hatched more than three years ago, with the vision of creating a regional draw for the more than 1,600 children who have been diagnosed with a disability in Jackson County, PTO members said.
While there is a similar playground at Walker Elementary School in Ashland and at Garfield Elementary School in Corvallis, Hoover's new playground is the first in Oregon to be certified as a "Boundless Playground" by the nonprofit National Center for Boundless Playgrounds, out of Bloomfield, Conn.
All playgrounds are required by law to be accessible enough for a wheelchair to pull up to the play area. However, unlike the Hoover playground, the play equipment in most playgrounds is not wheelchair accessible. Children in wheelchair's at Hoover's playground will be able to roll up to the top level of the five-level play structure.
The Cheney Foundation was familiar with "Boundless Playgrounds" because it had recently awarded a grant for one in Gig Harbor, Wash., near Seattle, Lewis said. That playground is still under construction, she said.
"That was our first brush with a 'Boundless Playground,' " Lewis said. "That was kind of exciting to me because I know they are being placed in more sites in the U.S."
The Hoover playground will open by the first day of school, Sept. 8.
A ribbon-cutting will be held in conjunction with the Hoover and Roosevelt Back To School Night on Sept. 24.
Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or email@example.com.