School in contest for new playground equipment

North Vernon Elementary School is trying to secure money for new playground equipment, and is asking the public to help with the click of a button rather than their pocketbooks.

The school is in a national competition to win $75,000 for playground equipment but needs votes to have a chance to win.

Hundreds of schools across the nation applied for a grant from Culturelle Kids, which is partnering with KaBOOM, for Project Playground. North Vernon Elementary School was selected as one of five finalists. The finalist receiving the most online votes win the grant.

“North Vernon Elementary has been in the lead since the voting began, but (another) school is closing in on us and we might lose unless more people vote,” North Vernon Elementary physical education teacher Karen Villa said.

The other finalists are:

  • New Haven Elementary, Columbia, Missouri
  • Perkins Elementary School, Newark, New York
  • Waupaca Learning Center, Waupaca, Wisconsin
  • Abraham Wing School, Glens Falls, New York

Voting began Feb. 15 and ends March 15. As of the beginning of March, North Vernon Elementary had more than 13,400 votes and led second-place New Haven Elementary by more than 1,600 votes. Perkins Elementary was third with more than 8,000 votes, according to voting totals on Culturelle’s Project Playground website.

“Anyone and everyone can vote. Family and friends of our students have really pitched in and spread the word. So far, we have received votes from as far away as Wisconsin and Tennessee,” Villa said.

“I was shocked that we made it this far, and now if we can just keep the votes coming we just might win this thing” she added.

North Vernon Elementary Principal Nicole Johnson is asking for help from surrounding areas.

“Our Jennings County community has gone above and beyond to help us with this project. Now we are asking the wider community to come to our aid to help us make our kids happier and healthier by winning this playground equipment,” Johnson said.

Because the playground equipment at North Vernon Elementary has not been replaced since 1972, a fund drive was already underway for new playground equipment when Culturelle’s competition was announced.

“We already have raised $20,000 for new playground equipment. The overall plan for the playground will cost around $100,000. If we win the grant of $75,000 and combine that with the $20,000 we already have, we will be very close to our target,” Villa said.

In addition to serving the 700 students at North Vernon Elementary School, new playground equipment will also benefit the extended community because the school is located near recreational ares open to the community.

“Our playground is often used by families visiting the nearby Jennings County High School and the middle school, as well as the bike paths and walkway areas,” Villa said.

How to vote

Go online to

Images of the five finalists are on the page. Click North Vernon Elementary.

A person can vote once per day.

Each vote also qualifies the voter to be eligible to win a $100 Target Gift Card or other prizes.