SYRACUSE — One of the best ways for very young children to learn is through the hands-on experiences they have during outdoor play.
But Becky Gray, executive director of Lakeland Learning Center, estimated every year her children lose 50 days of outdoor play due to flooding of the center’s playground. Now, the center’s leaders have decided to change that situation.
In May the center applied for a grant through the Dekko Foundation for a playground remodel. The foundation donated $55,655 to the center’s project. The grant was a huge step toward starting the playground project, but more money needs to be raised before construction can begin.
Many other area businesses and organizations have stepped up to the plate to offer monetary and service related help, including Polywood, Syracuse Lions Club and the Wawasee Kiwanis Club.
Many Lakeland Learning Center board members, including Dick Pelletier, Ann VanDyke and Tyler McLead, have also been hard at work cleaning up the area and raising awareness of the financial need.
Lakeland Learning Center is still accepting donations for its playground upgrade goal. The center still needs $900 to meet that goal. Once they receive the remaining donations, the center will be able to begin construction.
Lakeland Learning Center is asking for the community’s help in building a better place for area children to learn and grow. Volunteers will also be needed to help with labor once the construction starts.
To improve the area the center first needs to level the playground. Along with leveling the playground they will be adding playground equipment, a splash pad and a tricycle path for the children to enjoy.
Work on leveling for the splash pad and tricycle path has already begun with help from volunteers and board members, but the big playground renovations can’t begin until all the necessary funds are raised.
Flooding isn’t the only problem impacting the playground; some of the equipment is outdated and the grounds contain countless tripping hazards for children. The center’s playground hasn’t been updated since 2004.
The current playground is separated into four sections, allowing multiple age groups to enjoy the facilities at once, but the playground isn’t always play ready.
Lakeland Learning Center is the only nationally accredited childcare center in Syracuse. They serve area children ranging from the ages of 6 weeks old until the child is in sixth grade.
The center’s pricing is based on family size and income, allowing children from any background to receive quality care and learning experiences.
In 1973 Lakeland Community Services Inc. was first established for area children and housed in the Calvary United Methodist Church in Syracuse. In 1982 the center moved to its current location on North Long Drive. Then, in 1996, with overwhelming community support, the center expanded to include infant and toddler care.
In 2006 they acquired national accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children setting the standards for quality preschool services. As a result of receiving national accreditation, they changed their name to Lakeland Learning Center in order for the community to better understand the services they provide.
Forty-two years after opening its doors the center hopes to make big changes to its facility and the playground.
Anyone interested in helping can stop by Lakeland Learning Center on North Long Drive or call (574) 457-4983.