June Hicks’ family kick-starts fundraiser for new GES playset
On a golden October afternoon, the sounds of children at play – laughter, shouts of glee, young friends sharing a few minutes of sunshine and fresh air – fill the air as the new school year is once again in full swing. But a quick walk around the playground at the Gainesville Elementary School reveals an obvious and glaring need – to replace some worn-out, even potentially dangerous playground equipment.
Because this sort of expense is not included in the district’s stretched-to-the-limit budget, the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) has decided to take on the challenge of raising the necessary funds for one particular project: to replace the 24-year-old splintery, wasp-haven of a wooden boat play piece with a new, child-friendly, long-lasting playset that will stand the test of time.
If she were here today, it’s a given that the late June Hicks would have been the first to say this is a much-needed move. As a teacher in Ozark County schools for 30 years, June did her share of playground duty as she taught kindergarten and first, third and fourth grades. She is remembered by all who knew her as a dedicated and inspiring teacher who influenced hundreds of youngsters’ in a positive and loving way. She was especially passionate about reading.
“My sister June’s expertise was reading,” says Judy Turner, June’s sister and also a retired GES teacher. “Each year her class goal was for every first grader to develop superior reading skills at their ability levels. Hoping to instill a love for reading, she encouraged parents to read to or with their children daily. Often her homework assignment was simply to ‘read a book of your choice.’” It is the memory of June’s devotion to her students that caused her husband, Steve Hicks, to make the first donation to the PTO’s new playground equipment fund with $2,000 that was given in memory of his wife at her passing earlier this year. June’s sisters, Judy Turner and Gay Strong, also wanted to contribute when they heard about the campaign, donating an additional $1,000 to kick-start the giving.
Gay Strong said her sister “loved reading to children. She kept a closet full of children’s books at home to give as birthday, Christmas, baby shower or ‘no special reason’ gifts. I doubt any child escaped her classroom without dining on a plate of green eggs and ham on Dr. Seuss’s birthday, or dressing up western-style for the reading rodeo. I can only imagine how excited she would be to know that a new playground is in the works at her beloved Gainesville Elementary School.”
The PTO has identified a goal of $10,000 to purchase the chosen equipment, which has been approved by the school’s administration. They are inviting anyone, either a former student or simply an admirer, who remembers a beloved teacher to make a contribution to the fund.
“This is the perfect way to publicly say thank you to that teacher who made a difference in your life,” said PTO co-president Allisa West. “In fact, it may be hard to choose whom to honor! I can think of so many teachers who went the extra mile when I was in school, who arrived early, stayed late, made sure a student had the proper clothing, placed just the right book into a child’s hand to start her on a reading journey, dried a child’s tears, or laughed at someone’s silly joke.”
PTO co-president Susannah Alms is organizing different ways people can donate to this fundraiser. Donations may be given in honor of living teachers, either current or retired, or in memory of any who have passed on. Both honorariums and memorials will be commemorated on a plaque that will include the names of the donor and the honoree. The PTO has set up a gofundme.com site where donations can be made online. Search for “Gainesville PTO Playground Equipment.” Or mail a check payable to Gainesville PTO to Gainesville Elementary School, 422 Bulldog Drive, Gainesville, MO 65655 ATTN: Allisa West - PTO. Be sure to include with your check the full name of the teacher to be honored. One hundred percent of all donations will go toward the equipment and plaque.
“We are so excited about this opportunity to honor our wonderful teachers at Gainesville. So many lives impacted, so many special memories made. If we can give our teachers some recognition, and at the same time make a much-needed improvement to our facilities, this will be a long-lasting tribute,” says Alms.
The campaign kicks off this week. For more information, contact Alms at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 417-294-0536. The Gainesville PTO is a group of parents, teachers, and community members who work to meet the needs of the Gainesville school system.
“Teaching was truly Mom’s passion,” said Jordan Hicks, June’s daughter. “She loved each and every kid that came through her classroom door. She also loved recess when she could get some fresh air and kids could burn off a little energy. She would be so excited about new playground equipment and about all the kids in the years to come who will get to enjoy it.”