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By JOEL COLEMAN
The children of Sudduth Elementary have become the first beneficiaries of an on-going partnership between Starkville Parks and Recreation, the Starkville Soccer Association and the Starkville School District.
Representatives from SPRD, SSA and the school district gathered Thursday on the playground of Sudduth to present a lined-off soccer field, complete with goals and soccer balls, to the school made up of kindergartners through second graders.
The approximately 1,100 students of Sudduth are expected to be able to begin taking full advantage of the donated items today, bringing to fruition an objective set by former SSA president Rob Leach roughly five years prior.
"We took a vote on it then and the (SSA) board agreed to fund and help with any school in the city that we wanted to build a soccer field for and give as many opportunities to kids as we possibly could," said Leach. "It's wonderful to see the current president, Stephen Bock, and the current council following through. We know with pediatric obesity and things, the younger we start children with physical activity is critical. We're just so excited to present another opportunity for the children."
Sudduth principal Lisa Thompson is especially thankful for the donations provided by the partnership of the SPRD, SSA and school district.
Dealing with kids everyday, Thompson understands how much these types of gifts mean.
"It's extremely important to have something like this," said Thompson. "A majority of our children play soccer with the city league, so having a soccer field here where we can have free play and all of our kids have access to it, that's wonderful.
"We hope to have 1,100 smiling, happy kids playing on the field (today)."
It's a mission that couldn't have been accomplished however, without the work of many.
Assistant superintendent of the Starkville School District Walter Gonsoulin says it has been a pleasure to work with the SPRD and SSA throughout this venture.
"When we can collaborate with other entities within the city to make our schools better, we welcome that," said Gonsoulin. "This is something that services our students and our community. We want to provide as many opportunities as we can for our children to go out and play and have a good time. We're really appreciative of all this."
According to SPRD director Matthew Rye, Thursday's presentation is simply an example of groups coming together for the benefit of children.
"This is the reason that people like (Bock) and so many others volunteer many hours," said Rye. "They're in it to touch children's lives. This gives the school the opportunity to do some structured play or maybe just free play and introduce the sport to some who don't know about it."
Bock says that Sudduth is hopefully just the start of the partnership of his group, SPRD and the school district.
While there is still work to be done, other Starkville schools could soon receive gifts, much like Sudduth.
"As funding became available and equipment became available, now was the perfect time to do this," said Bock. "As we get additional equipment and funding, we'll add to other schools and progress like that. Hopefully this will just take off. As long as the staff of the schools accept it and want it, we're going to try to help provide it."