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HAPPY ENDING

Soroptimists help replace playground

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HAPPY ENDING

A donation of $8,100 donation from Soroptimist International of Manteca will cover the majority of the insurance deductible needed for replacement of playground equipment destroyed in an arson fire...

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED June 5, 2013 1:41 a.m.

When an arsonist torched the playground equipment at McFall School for the second time in three years back in March, it was the students that lost out.

More than $60,000 worth of equipment - slides, swings, a jungle gym and a rubber-bark base that allowed for the easy transfer of wheelchairs onto the playground - went up in a huge plume of black smoke.

Seven of the nine regular classes at the school, which is operated by the San Joaquin County Office of Education, were reserved for autistic students and the grounds, which were built with money from a grant, were designed specifically with those students in mind.

And given the relative ease at which those responsible could access the site - a low fence behind the school backs up to the Tidewater Bikeway and the chain-link that surrounded the playground itself could be easily be vaulted - police had little to go on after it was determined that the fire was set intentionally.

But thanks to the generosity of Soroptimist International of Manteca, those same special needs students will soon be able to climb, swing and jump their way through a new jungle gym.

On Tuesday the local service organization donated $8,100 that will cover the lion’s share of the insurance deductible required to replace the equipment.

With SJOCOE Superintendent Mick Founts on hand to personally thank the local Soroptimist group for its support and generosity, members like Betty Ingell were happy to be able to see the site and what their donation will go towards.

“This is something that we’ve supported twice before, so we have kind of a longstanding  relationship with this project,” Ingell said. “It has a soft place in our hearts, and it’s sad that we have to be here today -- that this is something that somebody would do.

“Playgrounds like this help kids develop the social skills that they need, and seeing that it goes back up is something that’s important to us. It’s the little things that make this community what it is, and we’re grateful for the donations and support that we receive that allow us to do this.”

The fire back in March marked the second successful time that a firebug managed to bring down the playground equipment at McFall. One attempt, according to Founts, failed.

Now that the replacement project is on-track, Founts said that the school will be one step closer to returning to the day-to-day operation that’s so crucial to special education students.

“This is a school that’s so important to this area, and we want to be able to provide everything that we can,” Founts said. “To know that the community, and an organization like the Soroptimists, are willing to come to our aid is beyond what we could have expected.

“It’s amazing knowing that we have that kind of support.”

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