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What's the connection between Flying Pig and Kennedy Coyotes?

Rick Wagner • Jun 24, 2018 at 6:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Janice Irvin marked the year she turned 26 by running the 26 miles of the Flying Pig Marathon in her hometown of Cincinnati.

This year, on May 5, she ran half that marathon and raised almost $30,000 to help replace the playground at Kennedy Elementary, where she is principal and the school’s mascot is Coyotes.

Kennedy, along with Johnson Elementary School across town, is raising money for a playground replacement.

“I said I was never going to run it again,” Irvin said. “But I said if I’d run it again, I could raise money for the playground.”

So she ran, and thanks to donations from coworkers, parents, students, businesses and the community in general, her run raised $29,100. A walk-a-thon organized by student ambassadors at the school generated another $5,000 toward a goal of $160,000. Also, student Layne Knight helped raise $500 for the project through her church, Morrison Chapel United Methodist. 

“She (Irvin) has embraced that building, and she has embraced that community,” Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said.

A TALE OF TWO PLAYGROUNDS

“We’re excited to have a playground for our community,” Irvin said Monday during an impromptu tour of the playground, where one of the pieces of equipment has a piece of plywood blocking a drop-off that once led to a chain ladder. She said that likely will be the first piece to go. Except for a newer yellow tunnel slide installed last year and a newer pre-K playground area funded by a grant, much of the equipment has seen better days.

She said parents and grandparents tell her some of the play structures date back to the 1950s, well before the city in the 1990s took over the school from Sullivan County. 

“I’d say that the metal structures are from the ’50s,” Irvin said of swings and half-round climbing bars. Other equipment might be from the 1980s, she said.

“If we had our dream, most of our equipment would go,” Irvin said.

Some, such as the newer yellow tube slide, might remain awhile. Her general plan is to put most of the equipment in a flat area where the swings are, although no company or provider has been chosen for the project.

“We have a lot of pride in our school,” Irvin said. “Lynn Garden is a tight community.”

Irvin and Assistant Principal Heather Hobbs both have a background in early childhood development and elementary schools. 

“Play is really important for early childhood and elementary students,” Hobbs said. “Our kids are the best and they deserve the best.”

However, Irvin said the playground really is for the entire community.

Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse told the Board of Education at its retreat that the Kennedy playground is the only public playground in Lynn Garden, although the nearby Roosevelt Elementary in Midfields has a playground.

“We have a huge need for a playground,” Irvin said. “We see it as a community playground. It’s not a Kennedy Elementary playground.”

She said the playground, when not used by the school or related programs, invites the community and churches to have events including kickball games and birthday parties.  

Likewise, Johnson parents have been raising money for the “castle” playground there, about $89,000 of the $200,000 needed so far, which according to city parks and recreation officials is the second most-used playground in Kingsport next to the Darrell’s Dream facility at Warriors Path State Park. However, Johnson has an active PTO (parent-teacher organization), while Kennedy’s PTA (parent-teacher association) has been inactive.

“That playground is pretty much what we want for this side of town,” Irvin said. 

To donate to the playground project, mail checks to John F. Kennedy Elementary, c/o Playground Fund (Ms. Padgett), 1500 Woodland Ave.,

Kingsport, TN 37660. For more information, email [email protected]

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