Fundraising Effort Begins for Playgrounds Burned by Arsonist

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The Sacramento Unified Education Foundation is leading an effort to raise $50,000 to replace the playground structures at two elementary schools that were destroyed by arson fires this summer.

Students at Caroline Wenzel and John Sloat elementary schools showed up on the first day of school to see a pile of wood chips where their playgrounds were. The damaged structures were taken down for safety reasons.

“I’m sad,” said Wenzel student Arianna Hevron.

“It’s really sad for them to come back and not have a playground to play on,” said Arianna’s mother Heather Coombes.

Others parents felt the same way.

“Walked out here to the playground for the first day of school and he said like ‘it’s gone.’ So it’s like they don’t have anything to play on,” said Jennifer Tatum, the mother of a 5th grader.

Supporters of the effort were at Caroline Wenzel to urge the community to donate to the cause. School member Darrell Woo donated $1,000 as well as the school’s PTA. Also donating was the McKinley Park Playground Steering Committee.

That organization raised tens of thousands of dollars in cash and in-kind volunteer labor and equipment to rebuild the iconic public playground that was burned down by an arsonist last year.

City Council member Steve Cohn, who presented the check to the Foundation, said they found that being angered by the arson won’t help matters.

“You’ve got to turn that into something more positive and I think that’s what we learned with McKinley. And we want to pass that forward for this effort and show that that’s not the end and that we can rebuild and be better than before,” said Cohn.

Both elementary school’s playgrounds are open after hours and on weekends. Council member Darrell Fong says he walks on the greenbelt that makes up the back of the Caroline Wenzel campus and seeks kids using the facilities during non-school hours.

“When these things are destroyed, that’s not only a blow to the district, it’s a blow to the community,” said Fong.

The Foundation’s Facebook page at has more details about people who want to donate to the cause. The foundation also funds after school activities and art and music programs for schools in the district.

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