South Charlotte

New foundation working to improve school playground

The newly formed Olde Providence Elementary Foundation is hosting a Firecracker 5K on July 3 to raise money for new playground equipment.

According to concerned parents, every year Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools inspects their equipment (which is more than 15 years old) and then dismantles and removes pieces for safety reasons. Unfortunately, the current CMS budget does not allow for new equipment purchases.

Christy Hayes is the president of the Olde Providence Elementary Foundation, a separate entity from the active PTA. The PTA primarily raises money from student-body parents to support classroom needs and teacher requests.

Hayes said new playground equipment is Foundation's first goal because, "Physical education is a very important part of the learning environment, and with standardized tests being pushed to the forefront, physical education is being pushed aside."

Hayes also wants to honor Peggy Furr, the school's gym teacher, who has been raising money to replace the equipment by herself.

In partnership with the PTA, the foundation's mission, according to its website, is "to provide a healthy, challenging and enriching environment that maximizes the learning experience of every student at Olde Providence." Susanna Goldberg, secretary of the new foundation, said, "The foundation is specifically set up to go after new corporate donors and community donors rather than just relying on the same pool of parents from the school over and over."

When the foundation was announced, Olde Providence parents Jennifer and Donny Forsyth thought they could help.

Both are active runners and turned their passion into their careers. Donny, a nationally ranked triathlete in his age division and a regular Ironman competitor, is owner of Charlotte Running Company South in Providence Promenade in south Charlotte.

Jennifer is a partner in Start-to-Finish, a company that manages race registration for more than 500 local races nationwide each year. When her company branched into overall race management, the Forsyths decided to organize the first annual Firecracker 5K to benefit the Olde Providence Elementary Foundation.

"The playground at Olde Providence is in desperate need to be replaced," said Jennifer Forsyth. "It's important to me to (help raise money) because I have 10 more years that my kids will be going to Olde Providence. We want the kids outside and active. "

The Forsyths have a rising second-grader, rising kindergartener and a preschooler.

The Firecracker 5K will start at Olde Providence Elementary School at 7 p.m. and finish at Windyrush Country Club, where there will be a pool party and barbecue. Registration continues through race day, though the fee will increase from $25 to $30 the day of the race. Registrants get a T-shirt, and awards will be given. In addition to the 5K, there is a half-mile Family Fun Run at 7:45 p.m. that starts and finishes at Windyrush Country Club. The registration fee is $12 per person and $15 on race day. Registration forms for both the Firecracker 5K and Family Fun Run are at