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Parkside Families “Get in the Action” at Recent Workday

By Danielle Berkowitz and Rebecca Wallace
In partnership with Action for Healthy Kids®, more than 100 Parkside students, parents and teachers, CSX railroad employees, and community volunteers attended a workday at the elementary school’s grounds on August 16. Funded by a grant from Action for Healthy Kids® and sponsored by CSX, the day allowed the Parkside community to see and feel what it means to enact healthful changes to combat undernourishment and childhood obesity – all while getting Parkside’s playground and garden beautified and ready for the school year.
As part of the “Get in the Action” event, volunteers spread fresh mulch on the playground; built five picnic tables and two vertical storage units for gardening supplies; repaired, painted, and planted new vegetation in six planter benches; laid a brick pathway, removed weeds and debris, and pruned existing plants in the garden; and readied the foundation for an 8-by-12 cedar greenhouse adjacent to the garden, which was assembled by a parent the following week. The facilities will serve as outdoor learning spaces for Parkside’s 565 pre-K-through-fifth-grade students.
“When an amazing nonprofit like Action for Healthy Kids® taps into a school and community that has a passion for health and wellness and connects them to a corporate partner that responds with financial donations and human capital, it explodes the energy and success of a project,” said Caitlin Sims, Parkside’s principal. “It made everyone involved dig deeper, work harder, and stay longer. Every person and partner converged to make this a success.”
Sims added that the improvements equate to 10 years of fundraising dollars.
“This has refreshed our school and energized our staff and students,” said Armelia Braddy, Parkside’s physical education teacher, who wrote the integral $10,000 grant proposal. “We are a diamond in the rough too few know about. Today, the community has begun investing in our children by following CSX’s example.”
The garden, chock-full of fruits and vegetables, provides ingredients for monthly tastings and unique nutritional lessons led by both parents and staff at Parkside. Workday volunteers even got to enjoy freshly picked watermelon while taking a break from their labor.
“This has been a record-breaking workday for us, and we thank CSX for supplying additional resources and support and igniting us as the school year begins,” said Katie Howard, PTA vice president. “Many more people know what this school has to offer because of today.”
Volunteers’ contributions to the school grounds helped increase the likelihood that more parents and community members will get involved with Parkside’s learning garden and outdoor classroom, which was brought back to life just last year by a Captain Planet Foundation grant.
“Today’s event built great excitement and energy in the garden, and it will domino and continue to gain interest,” said Carol Denhof, PTA building and grounds committee chair.
Action for Healthy Kids® combats undernourishment, physical inactivity, and childhood obesity by helping schools become places to promote healthier lives. The event was made possible through CSX’s How Tomorrow Moves initiative and its commitment to healthier youth. This year alone, CSX’s partnership with Action for Healthy Kids® will benefit 287 schools in 12 states.

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