Foundation pitches in playground money

A charitable foundation based in Tacoma, Wash., has agreed to provide $1,260 to complete a fully wheelchair-accessible playground at east Medford's Hoover Elementary School.

The Ben B. Cheney Foundation, named for the man who founded the Cheney Lumber Co. in the 1930s, is expected to send the funds this week to the school's parent-teacher organization to help pay for a wheelchair ramp railing that turned out to be longer and more expensive than expected. The ramp is the main entry point for wheelchairs to the playground as well as the way up to the main play structure.

"Kids are definitely a priority for the Cheney Foundation," said Carol Lewis, the foundation's grants manager. "Seeing a project that is so close to being finished, it's an exciting move on our part to be able to put them over the top."

Ken Ristine, the foundation's senior program officer, read a Mail Tribune story today about the need for more money to complete the railing, which is needed to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

He shared the story with Brad Cheney, president of the foundation's board of directors and Ben Cheney's son, who, in turn, asked the foundation to award the Hoover PTO a grant to finish the playground.

"We had an amazing response," said Katie Tso, Hoover PTO member. "Work (on the railing) is going on now."

The railing has to be 94 feet long, 24 feet longer than the PTO had anticipated, Tso said. At a cost of $52.50 per foot, the railing will cost $4,935, but the PTO had budgeted only $3,700, she said.

The PTO raised a total of $121,000 in cash and in-kind donations over more than two years to establish the completely wheelchair-accessible playground at the school, at 2323 Siskiyou Blvd.

— Paris Achen

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