Children get a new place to play

School has been open for two weeks in Wantagh, and Mandalay Elementary School Principal Marie Pisicchio says one of her greatest joys in that time has been watching children enjoy the new playground.


Named “Manda-play” following a vote by the students, the community came together on Sept. 8 to celebrate the opening of the playground and acknowledge those who made the dream a reality.


The cost of the playground was $84,000. The Mandalay Playground Committee, spearheaded by parents, received numerous grants including $42,500 from Legislator David Denenberg, $20,000 from Legislator Dennis Dunne and $10,000 from the Wantagh Kiwanis Club. The rest was raised through various fundraisers, including a visit from the Harlem Wizards, flapjack day at Applebee’s where the teachers served breakfast, and a brokerage night. The committee also sold engraved bricks and citrus fruits.

“It’s such an accomplishment,” said Roseann Lombardo, co-chair of the Playground Committee, upon seeing the completed project last week. “We are overwhelmed with joy.”


The new playground replaced a wooden one from 1986 that had been dubbed “Big Toy.” Sharon George, the other chair of the committee, said it was broken down and children needed something more modern to play on. “It needed a facelift,” she said.


Getting “Big Toy” down was a big undertaking itself, and would have raised the price tag if not for the help of Wantagh resident Richard Pesce. He owns a construction company and donated the labor to get the old playground down.


Pesce, a graduate of Mandalay, has a daughter in third-grade and another set to enter kindergarten next year. He said his children are excited to have a new playground, which will be there far beyond their elementary years.


“A lot of time and energy went into planning this,” said Pesce, who also helped negotiate the contract for the installation of the new playground.


Heidi Felix, president of the Wantagh Kiwanis Club, previously helped with fundraising efforts for a new playground at Wantagh Elementary School, and wanted to find a way to assist at Mandalay. She was able to get her club to make a donation.


“Our goal in Wantagh Kiwanis is helping the children of the community,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about.”


Denenberg, who secured the largest donation, said giving money to schools is one of the best investments that county government can make.


“Children are one-third of our population,” he said. “They’re 100 percent of our future.”


Lynne D’Agostino, the former principal of Mandalay, was on hand to see the new playground. She worked closely with the committee, giving advice and assisting with paperwork. To thank her, the committee unveiled a plaque on a nearby bench for her, much to D’Agostino’s surprise.


“It’s better than I ever imagined,” D’Agostino said of the new playground. “It shows you what the Mandalay community can do with a lot help from our friends.”


Pisicchio, who took over the reins this summer, said the new playground is not only for the children of the school to enjoy during recess, but a gathering place for the community. She wished her students “nothing but days of joy and laughter” ahead.


With the playground complete, the committee recently changed its name to the Mandalay Beautification Committee, and will continue fundraising efforts for various aesthetic enhancements around the school.

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