ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When Osuna Elementary School principal Hanna Myers first saw the aftermath of a Jan. 5 fire that destroyed a large portion of the outdoor playground equipment, “it was very emotional … there were tears streaming down my cheeks.”
The school always had been a safe place for the children and the community, but now somebody had violated those boundaries with vandalism that affected the 552 kids who attend the school and use the playground daily.
The good news is the fire didn’t spread to nearby homes, and nobody was hurt in the blaze that burned the playground equipment to the ground, charring the spongy wood chip safety surface beneath it, Myers said.
The school got some additional good news Tuesday when professional golfer Notah Begay III, through his NB3 Foundation, announced that he will financially supplement the school’s playground rebuilding project to make it bigger and better.
“When I read about the tragedy I was saddened by the senseless act of vandalism and I just tried to figure out how could I help, how could I use my platform and my voice on behalf of children,” Begay said.
While the NB3 Foundation focuses on youth advocacy and health issues that impact Native American children on reservations, it also contributes funding to several projects each year outside the reservation.
“Safe play space and playgrounds are so critical to the well being of our children and this is a way for the NB3 Foundation to reach out past some of the communities that we already serve and reach into the Albuquerque community, which is my backyard. I was born and raised here,” Begay said.
Albuquerque Public Schools insurance will pay the estimated $80,000 to $100,000 to replace the lost playground equipment, while Begay’s NB3 Foundation will contribute an amount to be determined after a fund-raising 200 mile relay race next month in Mesa, Ariz.
“We’re just hoping to supplement that to create some enhancements,” he said. “There’s an interest in creating an art project that reflects the commitment of this community to these children and I’m in support of all that. We’ll do anything we can to help motivate our teachers and administrators and mentors to continue to go to work and have smiles on their faces.”
Osuna special education teacher Brittany Dimas was already smiling. She has two daughters who attend the school and who were “very upset” about the fire.
“It was all they could talk about,” she said. “I think what he (Begay) is doing is amazing. We need to support rebuilding the playground and give kids a place to run and get exercise, which helps their brains to learn better.”
Osuna parent Kristina Creek said Begay’s gesture “is really kind and generous, especially taking the initiative to look for opportunities like this.” Further, she said, “it sets a good example and teaches kids a lot about how good things can come out of bad.”