By Tracy McNew
The untimely and tragic March 2017 death of Laura Cooper, a parent, volunteer, substitute teacher, and so much more, inspired her friends and family to collect money in her memory and donate it to Morrison Elementary School.
Just over $13,000 was raised, which helped the school pour concrete and purchase additional equipment to upgrade their playground.
On Friday, Sept. 14 at 5 p.m., a dedication dinner and ceremony was held in Cooper’s honor.
The school’s staff provided a potluck dinner and shirts for Cooper’s family who came from California and Idaho for the event.
Dinner was followed by a dedication ceremony in which friends and family recounted happy memories, tears were shed, and Cooper’s son, now a fourth grader, released balloons into the air and the crowd watched them fly away.
The donation really helped, said Jacob Francom, Superintendent and Principal of Morrison Elementary.
It was Francom’s idea to hold a potluck dinner, and the school’s staff pitched in to make it all happen. Francom also built the bird houses atop the post where Cooper’s dedication plaque is mounted.
The event didn’t only mark a dedication, it also marked the completion of a project that has been ongoing for six year, said Diane Rewerts, Assistant Principal.
The playground project was completed in three phases. The first phase included the large central piece of playground equipment and was dedicated in memory of Destiny Tallmadge who passed away in 2013 after growing up and graduating from Troy schools in 2010.
The second phase added more equipment, and the third and final phase of the project was done this summer.
In addition to the donation in Cooper’s memory, a grant from the Troy Parks and Recreation Department helped pay for the basketball court, and the City of Troy, the county, and Chapel Cedar were also a big help, said Rewerts, as well as the students and community that raised funds.
“Once we started letting people know during the first phase of construction, lots of families and previous graduates donated,” Rewerts said.
Brayden Ridgway, a fifth grade student at Troy Elementary told The Montanian how much the new playground means to the school’s students.
“I think it’s very nice to have,” he said. “ A lot of the kids really like it (the newly poured concrete area). Once you come out, you can hardly get a spot in four square.”
The students feel ownership of the new area too because they helped raise money to pay for the upgrades.
“We appreciate everything that comes to the school,” Ridgway said, “and we enjoy it too.”
Although the students have been enjoying the new playground already, there is still a bit more work to be done. The school is continuing work to complete concrete curbing which will separate the wood chips from the gravel area, and they are working to complete a bit more painting on concrete before winter too.
Left: The family of Laura Cooper poses next to the dedication plaque at Troy’s Morrison Elementary School. Right: Fifth grade student Brayden Ridgway with his bike at the new playground. Photos by Tracy McNew, The Montanian