As the El Primer Paso school family and supporters gathered, along with New York Jets players, to spread 20 tons of green and white loose-fill rubber mulch around their new play area, Susan O’Donnell reflected that this was a “long-time dream” for the school.
“We send out proposals all the time, but I never in a million years thought a small organization like ours would receive something so meaningful,” says O’Donnell, director of El Primer Paso in Dover, NJ.
That “something” was a $45,000 donation for a new fitness-focused play area made possible through a partnership between the United Way of Morris County, the New York Jets, and the NFL’s PLAY 60 program, a national youth health and fitness campaign that tackles childhood obesity by encouraging young fans to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.
El Primer Paso is a preschool that serves at-risk Latino children ages three to five from low- to moderate-income families, however the school is open all children.
The school’s overall mission is to be culturally and linguistically responsive to families with limited English speaking ability by providing high-quality, developmentally appropriate preschool programs, and services to support affordable childcare for the community.
“We also strive to develop life-long skills for wellness and physical fitness. This play area will help us do that,” explains O’Donnell.
El Primer Paso was thrilled to work with Joe Del Vecchio, a General Recreation sales consultant. “The playground is decked out in the Jets’ team colors, and has a fitness circuit with a balance beam, steppers, chin-up bar and other features. We also have signs with fitness tips in English and Spanish,” he says.
“Joe did everything to make sure our playground was perfect. We were especially grateful to him for helping us get the signs translated into Spanish,” O’Donnell says. “And, one of our sponsors provided funding for a handicap-accessible ramp. It’s been a long-time dream of ours for children of all abilities to be able to play on our playground.”