A splash to the finish: New donations boost campaign, more needed

WORTHINGTON -- As winter grinds on, so does the campaign to raise a combined $100,000 for a proposed splash pad in Worthington's Centennial Park. With a $50,000 matching grant from the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF) on the li...

A large contingent of First State Bank Southwest are shown Friday afternoon at the bank's Oxford Street office in Worthington. Bank employees recently donated an additional $5,000 toward a planned splash pad in the community. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - As winter grinds on, so does the campaign to raise a combined $100,000 for a proposed splash pad in Worthington’s Centennial Park.


With a $50,000 matching grant from the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF) on the line, organizers are hoping more people will see the value in a new zero-depth water-filled playground and come forward to help the Worthington Noon Kiwanis Club bring the project to a successful conclusion.


“The Deep Freeze Dip was a success; we had 32 brave people who jumped in the lake on Jan. 20,” said Chad Cummings, a Noon Kiwanis Club board member and Worthington City Council representative.



“More pledges have come in since then, and the city council made a motion to move forward with the splash pad project in 2018 if we can get to a full $100,000.”


Jeff Rotert, WRHCF’s executive director, confirmed Friday that the total committed to date for the matching portion of the effort rests just north of $35,000.


“The WRHCF believes this is a worthy project because it can benefit the entire community, add a terrific amenity for families in the region and encourage wholesome physical activity and positive social interaction,” said Rotert.


Added Cummings, “A splash pad is something truly everyone can use. There will be no admission fee, and it’s universally accessible to experience, whether a person is on foot, in a wheelchair or in a wagon.”



That broad appeal was reflected in the type of people who committed to leap into a 34-degree Lake Okabena last month after gathering pledges for their bold action.


“Some people were jumping in because it was on their bucket list, but there was a group of moms who jumped and there were daycare providers and school administrators, too, because they all see that a splash pad could be a huge benefit here,” said Cummings.


One local organization that has already demonstrated its clear commitment to the cause is First State Bank Southwest.


“Our board of directors got wind of the splash pad idea because of the Kiwanians associated with our board, and they made an immediate and unanimous decision to put up $5,000 right away,” said Greg Raymo, president of First State Bank Southwest.



“We wanted to be leaders in the effort and encourage others to rise up and help make this a reality.”


When Raymo learned at last Friday’s Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and banquet that the sponsoring Noon Kiwanis Club remained short of the $50,000 total - and with the city’s promise to move ahead with the project this year being contingent on a $100,000 goal being reached - he mentioned that fact on Monday at the bank’s weekly staff meeting.


“We had three guys who did the Deep Freeze Dip - real estate mortgage lenders Adam Dahlquist and Jordan Huisken, plus commercial lender Mark Vis - and I thanked them, shared the information about the fund total with staff and expressed how cool it would be if we could get the remainder raised,” related Raymo, adding that bank board member Erlin Weness also had a hand in the Deep Freeze Dip endeavor while managing to keep his own toes out of the frigid waters.


At the meeting’s close, two young employees who happen to have toddlers or preschool-aged children approached Raymo.


“They’re paying for diapers and daycare, and they stepped forward to offer $250 each for the splash pad,” credited Raymo.


About an hour later, three other staff members visited Raymo’s office to announce their employee base of roughly 30 had raised another $5,000 (an average of over $166 per person).


“I was so proud that they hadn’t just stepped up, but did so in a significant way,” praised Raymo. “It would be the coolest thing if enough other people would chip in $150 so we could raise that last bit in a heartbeat.”


Additionally, Raymo is proud of his employees because not all of them live within Worthington’s city limits.


“Some of them live in Adrian, Fulda or Ocheyedan, but they still see the value a splash pad can bring to the region,” said Raymo. “It says a lot about them, and about their sense of shared responsibility.”


Because the city council has already indicated its approval of a splash pad for Worthington, should the $100,000 goal be met, Public Works Director Todd Wietzema has begun to prepare for it.


“The council authorized staff to start the planning process for a splash pad in Centennial Park,” Wietzema confirmed. “We’re still working on choosing the exact location and size, but we’re starting to have some surveying done for that and a proposed new ‘Beach Nook’ building that may also go in this year.


“We’re looking for a spot that would be mostly in full sun because, as with any water feature, sunshine makes it more enjoyable.”


Like Rotert, Raymo and Cummings, Wietzema and his staff are eager to see the project move forward.


“From a public works standpoint, we’re excited about this,” said Wietzema. “With the water issues Worthington’s had over the years, we’re looking at a recirculating system which requires checking filters and chlorine levels on a daily basis, but that makes sense for us and we have public works staff who can manage that.”


Centennial Park, as one of Worthington’s largest and most used parks, has been identified as the potential future site partly due to the existing electrical and storm sewer infrastructure there.


“The state requires there to be a restroom facility with a drinking fountain and showers somewhere near the splash pad,” Wietzema explained.


Cummings is optimistic that the full $50,000 will be met to allow for the splash pad’s construction yet this year.


“But we need to buckle down and get it done sooner rather than later,” urged Cummings. “If we don’t make it, then next year’s Deep Freeze Dip funds will go toward it, too, but we really want to get this done in 2018 and see it open yet this summer.”


Bolstered by the community spirit and generosity exhibited by the First State Bank Southwest employees, Cummings hopes others will also be inspired to donate.


“We’ll accept any donation,” he affirmed. “Let’s put this over the top and make it happen.”


For donations to the Worthington splash pad project, drop off or send cash or checks (payable to the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation) to either RadioWorks, 28779 Nobles County 35, or the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, 1121 Third Ave. Questions may be directed to Chad Cummings at Radio Works, 376-6165.  


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