One of two new playgrounds at Gladstone Elementary is being installed. The first to be completed is for students kindergarten through second grade and will be fully installed by the end of the month. photo by DORRI PARTAIN

Dorri Partain

Ask any school-aged child what their favorite class is and they’re likely to reply, “recess!” Making recess even better is the goal of a local benefactor who has provided funding, not just to upgrade an original school playground, but to add an additional new playground on the grounds of Gladstone Elementary at 335 N. Elmwood Ave.

With the vision of helping as many kids as possible, Overland Park resident Robb Murphy contacted the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) administration office and asked which elementary schools were in the greatest need of new playground equipment, then narrowed it down to three elementary schools with the most need.

To finalize his decision to fund new equipment Murphy said, “I visited all three elementary schools so I could determine which had the greatest need and it was hands down an easy decision to select Gladstone Elementary as the school I wanted to support. In addition, Dana Carter, the principal at Gladstone Elementary was such a gracious ambassador and it was clear to see that the kids loved her as we walked through the halls of the school and around the playground.”

Murphy has practiced philanthropy for 25 years and has previously made the choice to remain anonymous, believing the people should do things for purely genuine reasons, without expecting any acknowledgement or personal recognition in return. He has supported schools for many years, which began when he heard that a school district in Kansas was considering dropping art education from their budget. Murphy stepped forward to fund the art program and continues to do so to this day. This is the first time he has replaced playground equipment, provided funding to the KCPS district, or been recognized as the benefactor.

“This year I have decided to allow myself to be openly and publicly recognized for my acts of charity,” Murphy said. “After 25 years of being anonymous I think it is okay to allow myself to feel good because I know I have the purest of objectives.”

The funding that Murphy is providing covers the installation of two playgrounds on the school grounds, one of the south side of the school for students kindergarten through second grade and a completely new area on the north side for grades three to five.

“I have no ties to KC Public Schools but I did some research and determined that Gladstone Elementary was where I needed to share some of my support,” Murphy said.

“I made an agreement with KC Public Schools in which they agreed to allow access to the school playgrounds during daylight hours when school was not in session. I wanted the entire community to be able to enjoy the playground equipment, much like they would enjoy a community park.”

Murphy said it is important that the community understands that the playgrounds are available for them to enjoy, just like a park. It is also important to him that the community understands that the world is full of genuine and generous people that want to help others without even knowing them.

According to Elle Moxley, Public Relations Coordinator for the school district, the equipment being replaced was most likely original to the school’s opening in 1990.

“KCPS had this playground on our radar as needing repair; however, we had not been able to allocate funds for it in the annual capital project budget due to other, more pressing needs,” Moxley said. “We know how much recess means to kids, though. We’re so excited that the generosity of our community means students at Gladstone have a safe place to play.”

Installation of the south side playground is nearly complete, while the north side area is being prepared for installation. The project is expected to be completed and full of energetic students by the end of October.

“The new playground is going to bring so much joy to our Gladstone Grizzlies,” Principal Carter said. “We have never had swings here… That alone will be so amazing. I can’t wait to see our older students finally have a playground to enjoy as well on the north side of our building. I am so very grateful to Mr. Murphy for wanting to help our beautiful community and bring many smiles to come for all of the children who will play on this equipment.”