News Old - DO NOT USE - The Coast News Rancho Santa Fe

Schools receive grants for outdoor facility and equipment thanks to teachers, kids

Eighth graders Parker MacLean (left) and Tanner Hansen balance on a wooden beam, a piece of outdated equipment at Diegueno Middle. These students and others have been vocal about a new exercise area and equipment at the school, so they helped their teacher apply for a grant from Chargers Champions. Photo by Jared Whitlock
ENCINITAS — On a sunny morning at Diegueno Middle, four students point out a patch of schoolyard that’s intended for student use, but not quite fit for activity. 

The dirt ground is hard. Odd balance beams and small wood posts with no apparent purpose are scattered about. But in its current state, the spot’s days are numbered.

In hopes of bringing in athletic equipment and making the area more exercise friendly, some students and teacher Deb Abrahamson worked together to find a solution last spring.

“Finding funding for athletic amenities isn’t easy right now with the budget situation,” Abrahamson said. “I looked at some options and found a grant we could apply for. The kids were my fuel for doing so.”

When putting together the grant, students helped answer questions about why the school needs new playground equipment and what could be accomplished with funding. Some students even took pictures of the dilapidated area, showing why it’s not fit for exercising.

“They were really helpful and provided some great answers,” Abrahamson said, adding that she even used some students’ responses verbatim on the grant forms, including that the area “is unsafe and full of splinters.”

Because of their efforts, the school was given $22,000 for an outdoor exercise facility courtesy of Chargers Champions.

The facility, set to debut in February, will contain cardio equipment like a chest press, step climbers and a sky climber, or what Abrahamson calls “a young person’s gym.” A small fence will enclose the facility, but it’s meant to “really be open and for outdoor purposes,” Abrahamson said.

“It’s going to be a big part of keeping kids active at our school,” Abrahamson said.

The new facility and equipment will be installed near the rundown area on a small portion of the basketball court. Meanwhile, sand will be brought in and spread over the old spot, while the archaic equipment like the balance beams will be removed.

“We’re really looking forward to the new equipment,” eighth grader Parker MacLean said while standing on the spot that will be transformed soon. “It’s cool they listened to us.”

Chargers Champions is run by the Spanos family and the San Diego Chargers. Through the foundation, the Spanos family has donated more than $4.5 million to schools across the county since the foundation’s inception in 2000.

“We’re proud to support schools when they really need it,” said A.G. Spanos, the Chargers’ executive vice president and chief executive officer on Tuesday. “I think the best part is attending the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and seeing how happy the kids and teachers are.”

Nine schools were awarded grants this year out of 70 that applied.

In North County, Del Rio Elementary in Oceanside was also awarded a grant totaling $15,000.

The grant will go toward “lots of new sports equipment for sports including basketball, football and volleyball and others,” said fifth grade teacher Ann Zivotsky, who applied for the grant.

Zivotsky said the sporting equipment will be used to introduce younger students in the school to team sports like football and basketball.

“We’re hoping to get the equipment in the next few weeks and can’t wait,” she said.