Debbie School and Jackson Memorial Foundation Celebrate Grand Opening of Dream Playground

With singing, dancing and their profuse thanks, students, friends, faculty and other supporters of the Department of Pediatrics’ Debbie School celebrated the grand opening this month of the dream playground students designed and school volunteers built at the Mailman Center for Child Development.

With students and many adults dressed in Santa hats, the celebrants gathered December 14 for a family sing-along on the 2,500-square-foot playground’s long-awaited artificial turf, made possible with a $35,000 donation from the Jackson Memorial Foundation requested by child advocate David Lawrence Jr.

“Through the efforts of so many people, we were able to complete the playground, and now we have a wonderful play space for all children, with and without disabilities,” said Kathy Vergara, the Debbie School’s director.

The cushioned safety surface was the finishing touch needed before students at the Debbie School, where young children with hearing impairments and other special needs attend classes with typically developing youngsters, could safely play on the jungle gym, triple slide and other playground features that an army of volunteers marshaled by KaBOOM! installed on a single summer day in 2010. A nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing play back into children’s lives, KaBOOM! has helped build hundreds of parks across the nation.

To show the school’s gratitude for the last, essential element, Vergara and Steven E. Lipshultz, M.D., professor and chairman of pediatrics and associate executive dean for child health at the Miller School, presented plaques of appreciation to Lawrence, Debbie School friend Joel Donnenberg, and the Jackson Memorial Foundation’s Joan Bender, interim CEO and vice president of development, and Sharon Fallick, director of development.

Committed to completing the playground, Donnenberg sought help from Lawrence, who in turn solicited the foundation’s help.

Sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the KaBOOM! playground replaced the Debbie School’s original playground, which wasn’t suitable for kids with disabilities, and after 38 years was too old and outdated to appeal to typically developing kids.

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