After 18 months of planning, fundraisers and bringing the community together to build a project in honor of a young student that died, the school has formally accepted the playground built for Vinnie Rizzo.
At the Monday, Aug. 25, North Colonie Board of Education meeting, the board unanimously voted to accept the donation of the playground built at Blue Creek Elementary.
After Vincenzo died suddenly in January 2013, people started donating money to the Rizzos, and they weren’t sure what do with all of it. Tina Rizzo, Vinnie’s mother, knew her son was fond of the playground at his school, so she began work on building a new one. After raising over $100,000, the project was completed in July.
Superintendent Joseph Corr said that voting on the acceptance of any donation is a legal formality the board has to follow. After the donation was accepted, Corr and the board thanked Rizzo and her family for their hard work and dedication.
“We’re very fortunate this evening to have in the audience here Tina Rizzo and Lexi Rizzo from the Rizzo family, who put together an incredible fundraising effort and coordination of many different organizations,” said Corr.
To pull the project together, Rizzo was able to coordinate with Blue Creek PTA, Home Depot, Paula Mahan, Sunshine Landscaping, Luigi Paving and major donations from Pettinelli Recreation, Pettinelli & Associates, Miracle Recreation and more than 200 volunteers from the community that came out to put the playground together.
“Tina, I’ve got to say that you are really amazing. Your courage, your fortitude, your perseverance and dedication is an inspiration to us all. It’s a wonderful tribute to your son, and we are so appreciative of your incredible effort that you put in giving Blue Creek a phenomenal playground,” said Corr.
The playground includes sections that are handicap and wheelchair accessible, so all children can use it. Other elements of the playground include subtle reminders of Vinnie, such as some pieces of equipment that are red because it was Vinnie’s favorite color or the fact that the playground is designed in a V shape for Vinnie. A new basketball court and hoops were another addition.
The hard work of Corr and the school board was not lost on Rizzo, who worked with them throughout the project. Corr and other staff participated in a fundraising basketball game, and also showed up to help assemble to equipment and put it up.
“From the basketball game he played in to other fundraisers at Shaker, he was amazing,” said Rizzo of Corr. “From the minute we got there to build the playground to the minute we were done, Saturday and Sunday and after that, you were there. It really was because of all you, and I want to thank you for that,” Rizzo told the board.
The mission to build a playground to bring joy to the children in the community ended up being about more than a playground, and Rizzo expressed her gratitude to everyone involved.
“When we all pulled together as a community and a family, it happened. I am thankful because you guys all helped me with this. Not just the school, not just my family, the whole community came together to help me heal and my children and their children. It was an amazing tribute to my son,” said Rizzo.