Ed Donnelly is one good-natured dude.
Like others, he cares immensely about kids, so much that Donnelly and a bunch of local dads never fail in going the extra mile to help them.
After all, they’re the D.U.D.E.S. – the acronym for Dads Uniting Dads in Education and Service. And service, points out Donnelly, is the key word in their name. “Our mission is to support the kids at the schools and help the faculty and PTA,” said Donnelly, the president of the organization, explaining the origin of the D.U.D.E.S., formed about a year and a half ago when six Marengo Elementary School dads got behind the idea of giving back to the campus.
Today, the D.U.D.E.S. have grown to about 130 active members representing all three elementary schools in South Pasadena. About a dozen in the group, clad in bright orange t-shirts, were on hand Friday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially reopen the playground at Marengo Elementary School and thank Barbara Lew, a grandmother of a student on campus, for her generous donation of $30,000 to make it happen.
For the project to come fully together, it took the dedication of many others, including one key individual, beyond the support of the D.U.D.E.S.
The playground is a culmination of an overall shade project envisioned and managed by landscape architect and PTA Site Beautification Committee Chair Amy Jones. Donnelly on behalf of the D.U.D.E.S, received a generous check from donor Lew, and worked closely with Jones to put in a new irrigation system, eight new trees and resurface the entire playground over spring break. All of the upgrades are designed to reduce the ambient heat by about 10 to 15 degrees, keeping students much cooler on hot days. While kids took a week off from school, a professional crew was busy at work, laying down the new playground surface. “The D.U.D.E.S would like to thank you guys – the kids of Marengo, for inspiring us to make this the best place we can make it for you,”
Donnelly told Marengo students during Friday’s assembly. “This is a big addition to Marengo,” added the school’s principal, Kim Sinclair. “Every single child at Marengo gets to benefit from this playground.”
Sinclair stressed the project was a united effort between Lew’s donation, Marengo PTA, the school district and the D.U.D.E.S. “In collaborating, we were able to bring this beautiful playground to Marengo,” she said, noting it started with Lew. “Without her contribution, we wouldn’t have a new playground.”
New SPUSD Superintendent Geoff Yantz liked what he saw during Friday’s assembly, praising the work of those involved. “I think you’ve set a new standard for playgrounds in the school district and, actually, around the region,” he said.
After Yantz acknowledged his appreciation, Donnelly asked Lew and her grandson, Douglas, a student at Marengo, to join him on the stage. “Since the beginning of the school year, the D.U.D.E.S. set out to fulfill Mrs. Sinclair’s vision to repair and upgrade this playground,” Donnelly told the crowd. “This was made possible through the support of a very generous grandmother here at the school, Barbara Lew. As we were trying to find ways to do this work, Barbara stepped forward and said, ‘I support the D.U.D.E.S., I love the kids at Marengo, and I want to do this.” Lew, Donnelly and the D.U.D.E.S., Jones, the PTA and Yantz were all credited for their dedicated efforts by Sinclair, many holding a giant symbolic $30,000 check on an outdoor stage celebrating the achievement.
The PTA was highly instrumental in raising funds for eight new trees. “Within two week’s time we had enough money donated to purchase all of them,” said Sara Shaffer, the Marengo PTA’s executive vice president.
Prior to cutting the ribbon for the new playground, Lew, with the help of her grandson, encouraged the assemblage of kids to shout in unison: “We love Marengo!”
Indeed, they do, enthusiastically welcoming the new addition to their school.
- Sub-Headline : Marengo Elementary School Grandmother Thanked for Gift
- ByLine : By Bill Glazier Review Editor