To make a donation to GIVESMART in support of the Lonsdale Elementary School playground, visit our website.

Kids need a place to play, to exercise their bodies as well as their minds. A place to laugh and have fun, to stretch their imaginations free from the burden of desks and books, and in some cases their everyday lives. But over the last several years, amid limited budgets and tough choices, Lonsdale Elementary School’s playground area fell into disrepair.

GRIDSMART Technologies, Inc., is committed to changing that. Leading several community organizations, we are working to build a new playground for Lonsdale. One that will put the fun, the imagination and even the sweat, back into playtime.  One that will allow a safe place for kids to play outside of school hours.

“I have a special place in my heart for Lonsdale Elementary, as do our GRIDSMART employees,” said Bill Malkes, CEO and co-founder of GRIDSMART. “We want the best for these kids because the deserve it. We want them to get a good education with the chance to be active.  The chance to be kids. Healthy bodies lead to healthy minds.”

Lonsdale Elementary is a Priority, Title I school. More than 99% of the students qualify for the free lunch program and well over 80% come from families existing below the poverty line. The 412 students in K through 5th grade represent nearly 10 different countries and speak 13 different languages. Life can be a challenge for many of these kids

“Our current playground is cramped and small with each piece of equipment located just steps from each other. Some of it’s not working right now, and we’re seeing children sitting around a lot,” said Kori Lautner, Lonsdale’s Community School Resource Coordinator. “The new playground design will spread out the whole play space and create running opportunities, so kids can experience outside play as it should be. This playground will help make a difference in the fight against obesity and will help us improve the overall health of our children.”

In a true community exercise Families and students of the Lonsdale community helped design the new play area. This past December at the Lonsdale family planning meeting, students and parents got a chance to look at equipment ideas and pick the structures they wanted most for their playground.

“We had 100 parents and approximately 40 kids vote on their ideal play area, which is great because this is their school and their community first,” said Lautner. “Our kids see other schools with great playgrounds and it’s a constant reminder of what they don’t have. Now, they’ll have their own wonderful space and they’ll understand that they’re special too.”

GRIDSMART kicked off fundraising for the playground last November during INTERSECT17, the high-tech transportation conference held at GRIDSMART’s Knoxville headquarters each year. Conference attendees and sponsors donated nearly $14,000 for the approximately $64,000 effort. While fundraising is continuing, most pieces are now in place to begin construction on the project by July 2018.

Malkes said, “We plan to begin building at least three of the four structures this year and we hope to reach our funding target soon. I really can’t wait to see the ribbon cut on the new park and see these kids having the kind of fun and imaginative playtime they deserve.”

Since becoming a long-term community partner at Lonsdale Elementary school in early 2017, GRIDSMART has recognized 312 students of the month with certificates, goodie bags and books. Through the initiative of a GRIDSMART employee, the company also gave $5,000 worth of hats, coats and other warm clothing to the school this past winter for distribution during the cold months, and overall, the organization has donated another $12,000 in projects and services for the kids.

“This is about doing good for kids in need,” said Malkes. “We’re hopeful other transportation companies will see what we’re doing and take on their own corporate social responsibility programs. When that happens, everyone wins.”

To learn more about GRIDSMART’s partnership with Lonsdale Elementary School or to donate to the playground fund visit our website.

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