Helping outside the classroom

2008 Friends of Education praised for work on playgrounds

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— Julie Taulman, Shelly St. Pierre and Ed MacArthur are quick to praise the generosity of the Steamboat Springs community.

But few give more than them.

The three are the 2008 Friends of Education for the Steamboat Springs School District, named Monday by the Steamboat Springs School Board and to be formally honored at the board's June 23 meeting. The annual Friend of Education awards are given to individuals or groups who have contributed significantly to the school district.

Taulman and St. Pierre are leading the "Let's All Play" fundraising and community mobilization effort, which will result in the construction of new universal playgrounds - designed for children of all physical abilities - at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools. To date, the group led by the two mothers has raised about $650,000, including contributions from the city's Education Fund Board, the Steamboat Springs School District, a state Department of Local Affairs grant, in-kind services and local donations. Taulman said equipment for the playgrounds was ordered last week and "community build days" organized by the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club are tentatively planned for late July and early August.

"They're going to be built before the next school year," Taulman said Thursday.

Taulman said the playgrounds will include "play webs," spinning items modeled after teacup rides, multiple slides, teeter-totters and climbing elements such as a "Lift Me Up" that only requires use of the upper body.

"It really is going to be quite a statement about Steamboat and the way that we care about people," St. Pierre said of the project. "It still is kind of hard to believe that it's a reality - that we're as far as we are and in the final stages and that it's going to happen. : Julie and I have been working on it for almost two years now."

School Board member Laura Anderson nominated Taulman and St. Pierre for the award and described their efforts as "incredible."

"I think that it's a huge commitment in time, energy and effort that's worthy of being recognized," Anderson said.

"They have worked tirelessly on this," added School Board President Robin Crossan. "We are going to have two phenomenal playgrounds at the schools because of them."

'Always there'

Crossan nominated MacArthur for a Friend of Education award, citing his vast in-kind donations - he owns Native Excavating - to help with installation of a new turf field at Steamboat Springs High School and to provide snow on Lincoln Avenue sidewalks during this year's Winter Carnival, enabling students to create the event's traditional snow sculptures.

When the city was not able to move snow for the sculptures because of a manpower shortage during the winter's massive snowfall, MacArthur's crews stepped in to move snow from the rodeo grounds at nearby Howelsen Hill.

MacArthur downplayed his donations.

"It's just part of living here," he said. Both of his sons graduated from Steamboat Springs High School after growing up in local schools.

"I think they got a very good education, so I'm very supportive of the schools," MacArthur said.

Although MacArthur doesn't talk much about his service, others do.

"I've never even met him, but I nominated him because of all the wonderful things people have said about him," Crossan said. "Whenever you talk to somebody, or somebody brings up his name, they always say what a good person he is, and how he is always there to help over the years. : If somebody needs to get something done, he's always there."

Taulman, St. Pierre and MacArthur said they were humbled and flattered by the School Board's recognition, which will be commemorated in perpetuity on a plaque in the district's administrative office.

"It's a real honor and a surprise," St. Pierre said. "We're not doing this for the personal recognition, we're doing it for the kids."

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