Sweet Hannah Cook

Hannah Cook tries out the new slide that was built on the Tobey school playground especially for her needs while surrounded by the fellow students that made the renovations possible.

Home from major surgery in November, Vicksburg kindergartener Hannah Cook, aka “Sweet Hannah Cook,” was greeted by her classmates at Tobey Elementary School with new playground equipment dedicated to her efforts to play just like her peers.

Over $40,000 cash was raised by the fifth graders at Tobey when they saw that this kindergarten student with cerebral palsy was unable to play with the other students because the playground equipment was too tough for her to manage.

They launched a campaign to raise money to purchase equipment that would be suitable for Hannah and anyone else who might become a student at Tobey who is handicapped. For fifth graders to raise that kind of money through their efforts is a marvel, said Principal Mike Barwegen. “If you were to cost out all the volunteer work that was supplied to the project, it would top $70,000, all in about a three-month period of time this fall.”

While Hannah was out of school for a month with surgery in St. Louis that would help strengthen the muscles in her legs, the fifth graders were hard at work trying to help her out. They did some money raising efforts through their classmates but soon realized that wouldn’t be enough. They went door to door in the residential areas near the school and then they started getting press for their efforts. They were featured on Channel 3, MLive, ABC, and in the South County News.

When it came time to actually order the equipment, the fundraising drive was $4,000 short. Barwegen pulled out the big guns and made application to the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation and Frederick Construction which also donated. “We had to find the money from our special accounts in order to help the campaign over the top,” said Charlie Glaes, Vicksburg school superintendent and an ex-officio member of the VCSF. “We thought this showed lots of integrity on the student’s part with their empathy for a special-needs child. It was important that we get involved to find the money that would assure the students that they could make their dream come true.”

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