By Ben Rodgers
HOBART – After two years of fundraising the Hillcrest Elementary School PTO will see its hard work come to fruition.
Work began on Monday, July 16, on a new playground for the youngest students at the school after the group raised more than $40,000.
“We’re a small but mighty PTO and it has just been amazing seeing the parent involvement to get to this and the sponsorships have been incredible,” said Heather Nawolski, PTO treasurer.
The PTO held a variety of fundraisers which included a T-shirt sale, flower sale, fall carnivals, Box Tops for Education and more.
“It’s through many, many fundraisers and many countless volunteer hours that we’re in a position to get this done,” Nawolski said.
The biggest fundraiser is the annual Knowledge-a-thon.
Teachers at different grade levels work with their students to come up with a list of questions relevant to the curriculum.
Students then go out and raise pledges to compete while studying for the quiz.
Then they answer the questions on an iPad the day of the event.
“It is really cool as a parent to see how proud the kids are to take part in it and to work on their questions and have that ownership of learning and doing their part to help with the fundraising at their school,” said Sarah Zemple, PTO president. “The grandparents and aunts and uncles love getting behind that because everyone values education and this is a direct correlation of the kids working hard. They learn things they should be learning and they raise money.”
Zemple was elected PTO president in May. She has two children in the district with two more on the way.
Zemple’s son Bobby, will be entering kindergarten next year and her daughter, Heidi, will be entering 4K. A set of twins isn’t far behind.
“It’s really great to know they put in so much effort to give these kids a new play structure that is designed specifically for the youngest kids at Hillcrest, the 4K and kindergartners,” she said.
Zemple said there were some safety concerns with the current playground equipment for those younger students.
The new structure will be safer for little kids, but isn’t necessarily geared 100 percent for them, she said.
Zemple has embraced life on the PTO and said she is proud to be part of a group that supports the school.
“I’m from a big city (Milwaukee) where I didn’t have that community feel,” she said. “That’s what I was really excited about to move to a smaller community where everyone feels that ownership. You don’t get lost in a crowd and you just feel proud of the people around you. Everyone steps up with volunteering and fundraising, and you can tell people are involved with their kids in school.”
The project also could not have happened without the support of sponsors, which raised more than $15,000.
“We would like to thank the entire Hillcrest School Community along with several companies/families for their generous donations to enhance the playground,” said Kris Wells, Hillcrest principal. “Prevea Health, Aurora BayCare Sports Medicine, Green Bay Oncology, Nicolet National Bank and the Witczak Family, the Piwonski-Dickinson family and Donnie Mac’s Landscaping.”
The new playground will be completed by the time school starts.
There will be a formal dedication ceremony at 5:45 p.m., Aug. 28, at the school.