Want to help?

For information on donating toward a new playground at St. Thomas Academy, call the school at 541-548-3785.

To look at the smiling faces of the kids gliding up and down on the swings and performing acrobatic tricks on the high bars, you wouldn’t know that the playground at St. Thomas Academy is in bad shape.

But a closer look shows outdated wooden frames on the play structures and wood chips that have seen better days protecting kids who fall.

A group of parents at the private Catholic school is doing something about it. They are trying to raise $70,000 to pay for a new playground from Texas-based American Parks Company, complete with a new play structure, along with an 80-by-40 foot concrete pad.

“The teachers have told me the kids are complaining about getting splinters,” said St. Thomas parent Bill Huff, who is helping with the fundraising.

The playground would include more modern equipment made of recycled material, along with a rubber floor.

“Those railroad ties are obsolete, nobody uses those anymore,” Janelle Kreuzner, president of the school’s parents association.

With the school adding seventh and eighth grades in the 2019-20 school year, which begins Wednesday, they also want equipment that appeals to older kids. The concrete pad will include a half basketball court, as well as wall ball and tetherball areas.

“Right now, the kids are playing on that sidewalk next to the building, instead of on a cement pad down here,” Huff said.

The new playground will also include new swings and a balance beam.

The existing playground at the school of 136 students was built at least 10 years ago and was moved from St. Thomas’ former campus when the new school at 1720 NW 19th Street opened in 2013.

So far, the school has about $15,000 in donations toward the new playground, Kreuzner said. It also has some in-kind donations, like a promise from a local company to do excavating.

Two car washes at St. Thomas, have raised about $2,300, while smaller fundraisers, like a student making balloon creations and selling them for 50 cents each, have also helped out, Kreuzner said. Four other students raised money through lemonade stands.

“It’s been amazing to watch the community — including non-parishioners and non-family members — stop in and ask how they can be involved,” said Nistassa Rigez, vice president of the parents association. “It’s been incredible to watch.”

The school has two more fundraisers planned in the fall. Students will go door-to-door selling Willamette Valley Pie Company products as soon as school starts, with a wreath sale planned starting in October.

The playground project is important in helping build strong children, said the Rev. Todd Unger of the adjacent St. Thomas Catholic Church.

“We educate their minds, we educate their hearts, now we’re going to exercise their muscles,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com