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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Teacher's dream becomes reality for youngsters

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mr. B's bench
BENTON -- When school began last week, Kelly Elementary School students set foot on an all-student accessible playground-- an upgrade made possible by the late Marc Boardman.

Boardman, who worked as a teacher in the school district for 28 years, died in June from cancer. Prior to his death, he had been working to make the school's playground accessible to all students regardless of any mental or physical disabilities.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the school Aug. 14 to dedicate the first phase of a playground project in Boardman's name. A granite bench, which was donated, sits in the playground with the words "Mr. B's Playground In Honor of Marc Boardman Dedicated 2008" etched into the back of the seat.

"Mr. Boardman's wife and other family members came and cut the ribbon for us and turned the kids loose onto the playground," said Kelly Elementary Principal Fara Jones.

Boardman's wife, Paulette Boardman, said she got teary-eyed during the ceremony.

"Several of the kids came up and hugged me," Boardman said. "It was good to see everybody out there. They seemed to be excited about it."

Boardman said some of the students who knew her husband know why the playground is there and are going to take care of it. They understand the importance of it, she said.

"We just finished phase one, and there are other parts of the playground that aren't American Disability Association accessible," Jones said. "We're going to raise money to continue with the project."

Phase one included the installation of rubber safety mats underneath existing playground equipment. To do that, playground equipment had to be on a solid surface so asphalt was laid before the rubber mats were installed.

"There are still areas with pea gravel such as swing area that's not accessible to students with disabilities," Jones said.

Rubber mats will be installed under the swing area in phase two of the project, Jones said.

Besides making it easier for wheelchair bound and other disabled students to access the playground, the rubber mats are a safety plus for the regular education students.

"We had a little one fall off a piece of equipment and she bounced up after falling on the mats," Jones said.

The goal is to complete the project by December 2009.

"The public has been so tremendously supportive in their donations. We will continue to do our fundraisers," Jones said.

Both Jones and Boardman said they've been amazed at how generous people have been with their donations to the project.

Mr. B's Playground Fund has received donations from local residents in Sikeston, Benton, Scott City and even other states like Georgia, Michigan and Louisiana.

"I think he would be amazed at all the donations that have come in -- from people we know, people we didn't know," Boardman said.

Boardman's wife said she's picking up where her husband left off in regard to working to complete the project.

"The playground was really important to him. When we were living in St. Louis, he would say think of something that will raise a lot of money for this playground," Boardman said.

Boardman recalled last May at an end-of-the-school-year assembly when her husband auctioned off a couple hundred dollars of gift cards he'd been given by co-workers. He raised $1,900 for the project.

"Every child should have a place to play," Boardman said.

Boardman said it's important for students and the district to keep her husband's memory alive.

"I plan to stay involved as long as they let me," Boardman said. "If it meant something to him, it meant something to me. I'm sure he's happy."

Anyone who would like to make a donation to the project should send them to: Mr. B's Playground Fund; Attn: Fara Jones; 4035 State Highway 77; Benton, MO 63736.