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Sunnyside staff eyes playground enhancements

One of two smaller playgrounds at Sunnyside Elementary School. Samantha Bengs / RiverTown Multimedia

Hot lava, a twisting jungle path full of obstacles, or even outer space — the two playgrounds at Sunnyside Elementary School can take a creative brain to just about anywhere.

Recently, Sunnyside staff members have begun efforts toward expanding and enhancing the school's playgrounds. A surprise concert from a popular Twin Cities-based kids group Koo Koo Kangaroo on Jan. 24 kick-started a fundraising campaign to self-fund playground updates.

Brianna Dressen, Pam Dressen, Tara Nelson, Jayne Boeding and Deb Heitman are leading the charge.

"This is good for Sunnyside students, the neighborhood and the entire community," kindergarten teacher Pam Dressen said.

Currently, 455 students fill 20 classrooms in the building.

Sunnyside Principal Mike Pagel said the two, small playgrounds are used by four classes at a time.

"At any given time, we have 90-100 students on the playgrounds," Pagel said.

The committee members said they would like to see a poured surface, providing a softer ground for children to play on. Additionally, Dressen said increasing equipment options and creative play space would greatly benefit the students.

Grassroots fundraising

The initial estimate the group received for new playground equipment came in near $120,000.

"We're approaching this from multiple directions," Pagel said.

The group is looking at grant opportunities, fundraising events and donations, they said, hoping Sunnyside families and community members will feel invested in the project.

"Beyond the use of Sunnyside students, this is a hub in the neighborhood," Pagel said. "A lot of activities are here during the summer. This is a community park, we want the community involved."

Dressen said students are already taking ownership of raising money for the playground.

"They are energized and excited to help," she said.

Students will be collecting pledges for an upcoming jump-athon event. Anyone interested in helping the committee with fundraising opportunities can email Dressen at Donations can be received at the school or online in the Red Wing Community Education & Recreation's website under 'Fundraising and Donations.' Click here to follow the link to the donation page.