Kids' playground plan slides in new direction

Posted: Tuesday, November 25, 2003

A strange thing happened to a group of Sterling children on the way to getting some new playground equipment for their school.

It all began with the makings of a fine strategic plan.

The fifth- and sixth-graders from the private Academy of Higher Learning wanted a new jungle gym. After years of use and some abuse the old one just stopped being of use.

A half dozen youngsters decided to raise the money to buy materials for a new jungle gym and probably talk the men of their church the Ministry of the Living Stones into building it for them.

When school got under way in September, the five boys and one girl started going through Sterling and Soldotna taking odd jobs, such as cleaning horse stalls and mowing lawns.

As the seasons changed, the jobs turned to raking leaves and shoveling snow off walks and rooftops.

The industrious team found plenty to do, and eventually raised $600, enough to purchase the needed 2-by-4s and 4-by-4s.

But then it happened.

They overheard their teachers talking about the Hope Ranch in Palmer.

They learned it was a type of halfway house for women in transition from jail back into the community.

They also learned that many of the women had little and most likely would not be able to buy any gifts for their children for Christ-mas.

"We wanted to do something for them 'cause their kids wouldn't be having a Christmas," said 11-year-old Travis Gage.

"A lot of the women don't even know where their kids are.

"We donated the money so they could buy gifts for their kids," Gage said.

The Sterling youth donated all $600.

When asked what they'll do about their jungle gym, Josh Butler, who says he's 11 1/2, said, "We're going to raise more money."

The children already are busy taking on more tasks to raise money for their jungle gym and for other philanthropic causes, and they say anyone needing help with snow shoveling in the Sterling area can call the school at 260-7741 to make arrangements.

The youth work for donations.

People wanting to donate to the cause may do so by calling the school, as well.

In addition to Butler and Gage, the others involved in the fund raising are Elliot Johnson, Rebekah Kitson, Joseph Kuczmarski and Hunter Maddox.

"We're really proud of them," said Laura Ludvick, a teacher at the school.

The pastor of the Ministry of the Living Stones, Verissa Walber, said the school always is doing one kind of project or another, but this is the first time a class of fifth- and sixth-graders has displayed completely unselfish generosity such as this.

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