The McPherson Parks Department was awarded $25,000 by the McPherson Community Foundation on Monday morning to assist in the updating of parks around town.

The parks department applied for a grant to assist in replacing equipment for three parks within McPherson, which are Whitlock Park, Lakeside Park area 4 and Countryside Park.

“Research has shown outdoor play offers many benefits for kids, including physical, emotional, self-confidence, learning to interact socially, releasing emotions and more. The grants committee felt like this was a great, long-term investment in our kids and families,” said Celeste Carlson, director of community services.

Carlson noted that three funds made this grant possible: the Youth Fitness for Life fund, Kansas Health Foundation Children’s fund and the Kansas Health Foundation Public Health Fund.

“All three of these funds were designed to improve the health and well-being of McPherson residents,” Carlson noted.

Wayne Burns, director of public lands and facilities, said that the playground equipment has run its course and now is the time to update equipment.

“The majority of the equipment was anywhere between 25 to 30 years old. You can only put paint on equipment so many times to keep it looking good — it was just falling out of compliance,” Burns said.

Burns hopes to have the grounds updated by mid-October.

“Lakeside 5 and 6 and Homeside are the most expensive grounds to update those will take some time to meet our funding goal. We’re updating Whitlock Park, Lakeside 4 and Countryside Park for right now,” Burns said.

Burns said he was pleased with the work completed by McPherson Middle School sixth graders last year, who took time during their Core Advisory class to help the department.

“Last year in the fall, we raked leaves around the middle school neighborhoods and all of our proceeds went to the playgrounds. We also helped out by taking that revenue from raking leaves and put it toward a ‘Pizza for Playground’ night.

We decided to sell pizzas at a basketball game to help out too. We also added penny jars around town, and with that combination, we had a little bit of revenue to have the foundation match some of that for the parks department,” said sixth grade teacher JoRae Meyers.

With the help of community businesses, the middle school and volunteers, Burns said he is more than pleased to receive this grant to give back to the community.

“It’s not about us, it’s about everybody in the community — they’re the ones that benefit from it. It’s a community investment and it’ll have long-term and positive repercussions.

The employees, customers and everyone else who lives in the neighborhoods where these parks are being updated will benefit from it. It also makes it easier for us to maintain with newer equipment,” Burns said.

“It’s such a great honor to even be able to make any contribution and just to know that the improvements to the playgrounds will affect all students not just in McPherson but in surrounding areas. I feel like we’re making a big difference in the lives of kids,” Meyers added.

Contact Brooke Haas by email at bhaas@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter @ MacSentinel.