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West Side cuts ribbon on new all-abilities playground

It was a day of celebration at West Side Elementary as the school held a ribbon cutting for its newly installed all-abilities playground Thursday.
The ceremony marked the culmination of a three-year journey of countless fundraisers and private donors that took a $10,000 budget for the playground and turned it into a $85,000 budget.
The West Side Elementary Parent Teacher Organization spearheaded the project to build the playground, a project that took many people to complete.
PTO President Dr. Alainya Hare said it was great to see the years of hard work finally pay off.
“I get chill bumps every time I think about it,” said Hare.
The playground has handicap-accessible swings and a wheelchair-friendly ramp that leads up to a play area full of boards designed for visual activities. Hare said that the new playground is something that everyone can enjoy.
“This way everybody can socialize and be together,” said Hare. “Before the handicapped children could only be rolled around the track. Someone had vandalized our swings years ago, and we didn’t have the handicap seat swings, and they only got to watch everyone play and couldn’t do anything. So, Regina May (PTO treasurer) and I both have medical backgrounds, and we decided we wanted to put in something that was for everyone.”
The West Side PTO consists of Hare, May, Lisa Simerly, and WSE Principle John Wright.
“This is huge because we have needed a playground like this for so long,” said Wright. “The old one was at least 20 years old, and some of the things on it were not safe.
“West Side is also the ADA school for the system and our children in wheel chairs did not have anything they could play on,” Wright added. “They didn’t even have a swing. We wanted to make sure we have a facility for children with all abilities.”
In a release from Elizabethton City Schools, special thanks by the PTO were given to Sam, Marlo, Drew and Robin LaPorte, the City of Elizabethton, and Walmart of Elizabethton.
In addition, the PTO recognized the very first project donors, Michael and Jackie Harris of Johnson City, Dairy Queen, Dr. Rakesh and Eketa Patel, Stephen and Jamie Scott, Modern Woodmen of Elizabethton, and all the parents, students, and teachers who organized and staffed fundraisers and made donations.
Wright also recognized Elizabethton City Schools administration and Board of Education for supporting the project.