John Laing, like many other 9-year old boys, likes to ride his bike, play baseball, build with Legos and read.
But he's set out on an extraordinary mission. He's challenging Bexley residents to beat his $50 donation to the Montrose Playground Fund, a challenge made possible through his "simple business" of selling handmade potholders and crayons.
Montrose is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to raise $130,520 to replace aging equipment and make the area accessible to children with mobility issues. Two structures were formally approved by Bexley's school board in April, to include one for the Montrose side of the school and another for the Remington side of the school, geared toward older children.
Although the district is not paying for the project, it reserves the right to approve all construction on its property. The district also will be responsible for all maintenance of the playground once it is complete, and it is liable for safety during student play on the equipment.
Traditionally, most districts build playgrounds when a school is built, but the replacement of those structures usually falls to parents through fundraising efforts.
The Montrose initiative first got off the ground two and a half years ago with parent Kevin Brashear leading the venture. Meagan Matteson joined the effort about a year ago and is now leading the charge.
The committee has raised more than $80,000 in the past four months ($105,670 total), she said, but is still about $28,000 short of its goal.
She -- and others -- are hoping Laing's plea will help.
Laing recorded a one-minute You Tube video to issue the challenge.
"So I am donating $50 from my business," Laing said in the video. "I challenge you to beat my donation because together, we can build a playground where everyone can play."
So far, his appeal is working and the money is flowing in through numerous donation outlets.
School officials and board members have spent considerable time talking about the playground project, which has garnered considerable support from parents. Board members have been concerned from the start about construction and fundraising issues, and in fact asked the committee to give them a date for when they felt they could raise the needed funds. That date, June 3, has come and gone -- but committee members are still adding up the money.
To date, the committee has held a 5K run, a black-tie barbecue, a Pennies for the Playground fundraiser, catalog gift sales and a memorial paver sale. Gofundme, a website where the committee is collecting individual donations, is filled with one-time gifts and messages from those who attended Montrose in the past and have fond memories -- of both the school and the playground.
The committee also has a website, montroseplayground.org, and a presence on Facebook and Twitter.
The project's total cost includes a savings of $35,000, Matteson pointed out, because of a community build approved by Bexley's school board members this spring.
The committee is hoping to break ground this summer and complete the project in time for the 2014-15 school year.