Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Desert Sun Early Childhood Playground 9:15 a.m. Oct. 6

September 30, 2009

desert sun playgroundCAVE CREEK – For everyone, even professional athletes, it all begins on the school playground. That’s the place where friendships are forged and social language development, cooperation, and physical skills are learned.

In recognition of the importance of play in early childhood development and to thank The Konerko Family Charitable Foundation for their donation which made possible the improvement of The Desert Sun Early Childhood Playground, there will be a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Desert Sun Elementary School, 27880 N. 64th Street, Scottsdale at 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

 “We all know the benefits and importance of play for young children as they develop and learn to share and communicate” says Dr. Debbi Burdick, Superintendent of the Cave Creek Unified School District. “The Konerko family has provided a safe and fun environment for our youngest learners. We are grateful for their generosity, especially in the challenging economic times, and I know the entire Desert Sun Elementary community shares my gratitude for the creative learning and fun our primary students will have in their new play area.” 

According to Bert Honigman, Desert Sun Elementary School Principal, “Originally, this was a playground with sand. Through the generosity of Jennifer and Paul Konerko, we were able to take the existing plans and expand them. All the sand has been replaced with soft, grass-like synthetic turf laid over rubber padding. In addition, we have on order new playground equipment, including tricycles, soccer nets, junior golf, and basketball hoops.”

The playground was scheduled for expansion, with a new retaining wall and ornamental iron fencing, but plans did not include the synthetic turf and underlying padding, new tire swing, which is very popular with the children, the tricycle track and new tricycles, picnic table, and playground balls and toys. The cost of the playground improvements covered by The Konerko Family Charitable Foundation is $50,081, per Director of Facilities and Construction Director, Dennis Roehler.

The playground gets an enthusiastic ‘thumbs up’ from the students. In her rockin’ black tennies with sparkly laces and stack of friendship bracelets, Preschooler Amelia Tubbs showed off her playground favorites, the playhouse and the tire swing. A miniature cheer squad practiced cheers on one side of the “lawn” while a pick-up soccer game rolled on another section of the turf. “It’s so fun!” exclaimed Kindergartener Shea Hart. Miss Tubbs nodded in agreement and got in line for the swing.

“Mrs. Konerko and I were sharing our mutual frustration with the sand” recalls Nancie Schauder, teacher in the Desert Sun Developmental Preschool. “Mrs. Konerko replied, ‘We can do something about this.’”

Mrs. Schauder noted, “We are tremendously thankful. Our Developmental Preschool for special needs children starts every day on the playground, and it’s an extension of what we do in the classroom.”

Through the family’s Foundation, Jennifer and Paul Konerko have tried to make a difference in children’s lives. The couple has been involved with Children’s Home + Aid of Illinois, Make-a-Wish Foundation and Habitat for Humanity.

First baseman and team captain of the Chicago White Sox, Paul Konerko was recently named White Sox nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award which salutes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, and community involvement. The award was named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder, who died in a plane crash transporting relief supplies to Nicaragua following an earthquake.

Mr. Konerko is familiar with local playgrounds, as he attended Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, played on their State Championship team, and was named “The Arizona Republic Player of the Year” as a senior.

At the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, the Konerko family will receive a very special scrapbook created for them by the Developmental Preschool children. The students will tell the Konerko family what they feel about the playground and how much it means to them.

Photo: Desert Sun Developmental Preschool teacher Nancie Schauder gives Preschool and Kindergarten students Amelia Tubbs (teal shirt), Alyssa Garalyczyk (pink shirt), and Julia Fox (white shirt) a ride on the new tire swing at The Desert Sun Early Childhood Playground. The playground has been newly improved thanks to the generosity of The Konerko Family Charitable Foundation.
Courtesy Photo/Vickilyn Hussey