When a new playground at Pine Hall Elementary School is completed this spring, it will bear a very special name. The Mike Joyce Memorial Playground is in the planning stages — named after the former sheriff of Stokes County who passed away from leukemia in December 2011.
“Sheriff Joyce had done so much for Stokes County, and he especially had a great love for Pine Hall Elementary School,” explains the school’s principal, Andrew Wiener. “His funeral was in our gym, and three of his grandchildren are students here.” The sheriff served for 20 years before his retirement in December 2010, making him the longest-sitting sheriff in Stokes County history.
The new playground at the school that Joyce so loved is the result of formerly unsafe conditions at the old playground. When Wiener became principal, he recognized that the play area required serious attention.
“Many of the bolts on the wooden structures were missing,” Wiener noted. “The gaps were wide enough for students to fall through. The hexagon structure was a choking hazard. The monkey bars were too high and rusting.”
In fact, during the the 2011-12 school year, there were three accidents on the monkey bars alone that resulted in broken arms. One boy broke both arms on that structure in the spring of 2012.
The school expects to purchase the new playground equipment from Creative Playscapes in Matthews, N.C., which will also install the equipment. This is the company responsible for the new playground at Poplar Springs Elementary School in King.
The Pine Hall Elementary project will consist of two slides, fun pods, vertical ladder, pull-up bar, side-step climber, mountain climber panel, octagonal overhead ladder and a curved balance beam. Of the $27,000 needed for the playground, the school has already raised about $14,000.
PHE began the fundraising project simply by asking for donations, which thus far have come in from nearby Kobe Wieland ($5,000), Walmart ($500) and private individuals. The next step for PHE was to begin writing grants. Currently, the school has been awarded the Duke Energy Bright Ideas Grant ($2,000) and the Bill Johnson Trust to Benefit Stokes County Grant ($700).
The Mike Joyce Memorial Campaign is also active at this time, raising money for the memorial section of the playground which will consist of engraved pavers. Individuals will pay $100 to have a paver put there. Since Pine Hall Brick is willing to donate the pavers and will only charge $20 to have the names and messages engraved, $80 of the paver donation will go toward building the memorial and the playground fund.
“We hope to pay off the memorial and funnel any additional money toward the playground fund,” Wiener says. His hope is that both projects will be totally funded.
PHE has recently been contacted by Home Depot with an offer to participate in the playground campaign. Their involvement has not yet been determined but will be finalized soon.
In the past, PHE had two playgrounds — one for kindergarten through second grade and another for third through fifth grades. The playground area for the older group has been eliminated, since the new playground will be suitable for the entire school.
“The playground area is big enough to accommodate an entire grade — or more — at the same time,” Wiener explains, “and the structure is appropriate for all of our students.”
The new playground will be located in the front of the main school building along Pine Hall Road where the previous wooden playground structures were situated. Wiener believes that the Mike Joyce Memorial Playground will be completed by early spring 2013, with the goal of a grand opening in March or April.
Wiener states, “Naming the playground in (Joyce’s) honor is just a small way that we are able to show his family how much we appreciate his dedication to Stokes County and to the Pine Hall community.”
Anyone who would like to contribute to the Mike Joyce Memorial Campaign may send a donation to Pine Hall Elementary, 1400 Pine Hall Rd., Pine Hall, NC 27042, Attn: Andrew Wiener. For more information, call Principal Wiener at 336-427-3689.