WILMINGTON – Williams Elementary is taking a running start into 2016 with assistance from one company.
For nearly two years, the school had been raising money to build a track. Having no gymnasium or common space, Williams Principal Amy Oots said building a track would help staff teach the importance of exercise and provide a safe space for kids to play.
“One of the things that is an issue for us, we are a high poverty school. And so there are not as many opportunities for children to play organized sports,” she said. “We really feel like the track and teaching students about a healthy lifestyle is a big investment in our future by fighting childhood obesity.”
While fundraising was going well, Kim Beck, the school's parent-teacher association president, said they were still far off from the money needed to fund the project.
But the two said that is when Livian Jones, vice president of operations for Newland Communities, stepped in.
RiverLights, an upcoming community by Newland Communities, took over the project, which is expected to be completed in several weeks. Site work began this week, and asphalt is planned to go in the following week, weather permitting.
“Livian, just like an angel, she decided she wanted to help us get our track and she sure did do it,” Oots said. “You hear a lot of stories about companies that are committed to their community, and this is a perfect example of Newland coming in and doing something that is really going to help us out.”
Jones said while it is a little earlier than usual to take on projects like this, the company is committed to partnering with the schools in the area and this is just the start of that relationship.
“We are as excited as they are,” she said. “It's a great school and we just want to help make it the best school it can be.”
Beck, whose grandson attends Williams, said the students are already getting excited.
"The children have wanted this so much," she said. "We started a campaign last year called Tokens 4 Track where children brought in spare change, and every month we collected the change and the classroom that had the most coins got a golden shoe that was on display in their classroom."
And in March, the students had a walk-a-thon where they solicited pledges for how many laps they could run or walk. One student, she said, ran 120 laps.
Working with their contractor Sanford Contractors, Jones said Williams Elementary will be able to use the funds already raised for other needed school projects.
Oots said that money will go toward some much-needed landscaping and painting lines on the track once it's completed.
And she said the asphalt track will also help limit the wear and tear on the school floors and carpets caused by sand being tracked into the school.
RiverLights will comprise 1,400 acres and will have up to 2,700 home sites when fully built. The company recently completed a new, 3-mile stretch of River Road between Independence Boulevard and Motts Creek.