Our School Built a Playground Thanks to SHAPE America’s Impact Schools Grant

Since it was built in 1970, General John J. Stefanik School in Chicopee, MA, has seen thousands of students in grades K-5 come through its doors.

These students — also known as the Stefanik Stars — are the heart and soul of our building. We may be a Title I school, but our Stefanik Stars are determined, hardworking, and dedicated children who have adopted a growth mindset attitude.

We have a saying at Stefanik: There is a difference in not knowing and not knowing YET.

Wanted: A School Playground

When I first began teaching at Stefanik School in September 2018, I quickly noticed that our hard-working students were missing one thing — a playground! In fact, our school was the only one in the city without a playground.

Our students needed a place to be kids! A place to relieve the stress of a rigorous classroom … let out some energy … and interact and engage with other children.

Our principal, Amanda Theriault, informed me that this was also a major concern to her, and she was in the process of taking the necessary steps to make this dream a reality. I quickly decided that it would also be my mission to help develop a place for the students to enjoy — during school, after school, and even on holidays or other school breaks. 

Impact Schools Grant to the Rescue

One of the first grants I applied for last fall was the SHAPE America Impact Schools Grant. I submitted a video of our students playing with some lackluster equipment and expressed my goal of creating a playground for them. 

In all, I applied for dozens of grants with very little success. However, in October 2018 I was thrilled to learn that Stefanik had been chosen as an Impact Schools Grant recipient. As an Impact School, our community has been changed in ways that can never be measured — and my heart has been filled with so much joy!

With the help of this grant — as well as the support of many others within the community — we were able to purchase playground equipment from Gopher Sport.

Playground under construction with help from Impact Schools Grant

Build It and They Will Come

Over the summer, we were very busy prepping and designing the playground for Stefanik School. Then, on a sunny day in early September, we hosted many volunteers who helped build our bright, beautiful new playground.

It felt amazing to play a part in making this dream a reality. Our students now have a safe place to play and engage in physical activity — and they are loving it!

two kids playing on new playground

Our school is so grateful to be a SHAPE America Impact School. Thank you from our Stefanik Stars!

students and teacher playing in new playground

Please join SHAPE America and Gopher for this year’s Big Feats Virtual Race — which starts on October 22 — to raise much-needed funds for the 2019 SHAPE America Impact Schools. Funds raised will go to these high-needs schools to improve health and physical education programs.

Additional Resources


Casey Nadeau
Casey Nadeau

Casey Nadeau is a physical education teacher for Chicopee Public Schools in Massachusetts, and one of the original 10 recipients of the SHAPE America Impact Schools Grant.