SPARTANBURG —The generosity of a Union County philanthropist and her fellow Lions Club members both in Union County and across South Carolina has helped make a new playground for blind children a reality.
In a statement released Wednesday, the SC School for the Deaf and Blind announced that a new playground designed specifically for blind children will open next week in Spartanburg.
“School for the Blind students can’t wait to run onto their new playground on Oct. 3,” the press release states. “They’re looking forward to climbing, sliding, and swinging on the playground designed just for them.“
The announcement states that “the new playground will feature swings, a jungle gym, a bank, and a grocery store — all connected by tactile walkways. It will even include music stations and a covered amphitheater designed for students with light sensitivity. The playground equipment will have ramps instead of stairs for easy access.”
The press release states that the $237,000 playground was made possible by Lions clubs from across South Carolina as well as Publix Supermarkets Charities, and the Wells Fargo Foundation as well as Union County philanthropist and Union Lions Club member Barbara Rippy.
“It’s important for all children to go outside, feel the sunshine, and enjoy playing together,” said Dr. Page McCraw, president of the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind. “These generous donors have given our students a safe, healthy environment to exercise and have fun.”
The playground’s amphitheater will provide a setting for outdoor performances of the school’s fine arts groups.
“It is so gratifying to be part of the development of so many children,” said Past International Lions Clubs Director Dr. Eugene Spiess. “This instructional area will provide a link between the children at the school and Lions clubs for many years to come.”
The bank and grocery store will serve as learning centers. The bank will include a bank counter and an ATM. It will be named Wells Fargo in honor of their foundation’s contribution to purchase the bank.
The grocery store will be named Publix in honor of Publix Markets Charities, the donor for the store. It will include a check out station, toy groceries, and a grocery cart.
“Publix Charities is proud to partner with the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind to help the Outdoor Recreational and Learning Park become a reality,” said Kelly Williams-Puccio, executive director for Publix Super Markets Charities.
The playground was the 100th Anniversary project for the state’s Lions Clubs. Working with the school’s foundation, 61 South Carolina Lions clubs and multiple individuals raised $122,000 toward the project through the school’s foundation. The Lions obtained an additional $100,000 grant through the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Major contributors to the Lions fundraising project included Mrs. Barbara Rippy of the Union Lions Club and Ethan Burroughs of the Spartanburg Lions Club who secured a contribution from the Wells Fargo Foundation. In honor of their contributions, the playground will be named the SC Lions Clubs Outdoor Recreational and Learning Park.
The Lions have worked with the school’s foundation since 1934 when they began sponsoring annual Christmas parties that continue to this day. Ann Akerman, CEO of the foundation said “Every graduate recalls the Christmas parties and many remember the large gifts of technology, musical instruments, and more. They also recall the generous gifts of Lions service as student club sponsors, reading volunteers, and leadership training instructors.”
Enriching the lives of individuals who are blind or visually impaired has been a goal of Lions since 1925 when Helen Keller challenged the Lions to assist with this cause.
”May this special place (playground) stand as a legacy of the ongoing partnership with the school and the Lions,” said PCC Dr. Dianne Pitts, SC Lions Centennial chairperson.
About the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind Foundation
Founded in 1979, the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to securing resources that enable the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind to achieve its mission and goals. For more information, please visit www.scsdbfoundation.org or call 864-577-7583.
About the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind
The SC School for the Deaf and the Blind is the state’s specialized school for students who are deaf or blind. It offers pre K-12 educational programs on its main campus in Spartanburg and specialized vision and hearing services in school districts and homes throughout the state. For more information about the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind, go to www.scsdb.org or call the school’s toll-free number at 1-888-447-2732.