BANGOR, Maine — An effort to expand the playground at Fruit Street School received a major boost last week from a second-grader and her family.
The school’s parent-teacher organization had raised nearly $9,000 for the project but given the cost of quality playground equipment, that wasn’t going to go very far, Principal Tim Babcock said Monday during an interview in his office.
That’s where Pam Aloupis and her 7-year-old daughter, Kaidi, came in.
Last week, Aloupis and Kaidi, who is a second-grader at the city elementary school, made a $10,000 donation toward the playground improvements.
Pam Aloupis said Monday that she and Kaidi, one of three girls she and her former husband, Vance, adopted from Chinese orphanages after their first six children grew up, originally planned to match what the parent-teacher group raised. In the end, however, they decided to round off the dollar figure to an even $10,000.
On Monday, Aloupis said she believes one of the best ways to instill personal values in young people is by example. To that end, she has encouraged her children to choose causes to support as a way of giving back to their communities.
“It’s probably the best gift I’ve given my children,” said Aloupis, whose children range in age from 7 to 35.
The children have supported a school in China that serves teenage girls who are forced to leave orphanages at age 14. They have purchased hats and mittens for homeless adults and snowsuits for schoolchildren whose families can’t afford them, said Aloupis. Her own causes include helping families with their paperwork as they try to adopt Chinese orphans. She has worked to bring orphaned children to the United States for lifesaving and life-altering surgery.
“It’s sort of a way of paying it forward,” she said, noting that her family has received such blessings as a home, educational and professional opportunities, good health and other things that are out of reach of many.
Kaidi said she chose the playground project as one of the efforts she wanted to support “because all three of us [she and her sisters, Kaili, 14, and Kaici, 11] went to Fruit Street and because we love the playground.”
Aloupis said it is one way that she and her children can leave their mark at the school after they move to Falmouth at the end of the school year.
“I wish that I could take Fruit Street with me to Falmouth,” she said. “This is just a great school.”
With nearly $20,000 in hand and parents who are ready to donate their installation expertise, Fruit Street School can afford swings, other play equipment and some fencing, Babcock said.
He said the swings will be especially welcome because the school now has only six swings, so lines form every time the school’s more than 300 pre-kindergarten through grade three pupils go out to recess.