PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — Thanks to a generous and completely unexpected gift, special needs students at a Pinellas Park school on Monday got to enjoy a brand new sensory playground.
- Gift came from family of Mike and Chris Stuckey
- Chris Stuckey, a teacher at the school, passed away from cancer in 2015
- Family donated $60,000 to school
- More Good News stories
Walking out onto the playground behind the Nina Harris School, tears filled the eyes of former principal Arlene Sullivan.
"I love it. Oh my gosh. Look at it," said Sullivan, crying. "Chris would be so proud to see this.”
Sullivan then looked down a plaque sitting just feet from a playground.
"Oh, the plaque is beautiful. It is wonderful," said Sullivan.
On Monday, a small crowd gathered for the playground's official ribbon cutting. The second the ribbon was cut, children ran onto the playground, which resembles in part a big wind chime.
Xylophones and large chimes stick up out of the ground with batons attached for kids to use to make their own musical notes. One look at the smiles and the pure joy is clear.
“She is looking down at this and smiling," said Sullivan.
The sensory playground was built after a large donation came unexpectedly to the school from Craig Hunter and his cousins, who were related to Mike and Chris Stuckey.
Chris had been a teacher at Nina Harris for years. She died of cancer in 2015, and Mike died of cancer in 2018.
“When Chris was sick, and after she passed Michael would tell his friends and us, 'I want to do something for Chris and donate something for the school or something,'" Hunter explained. "And then Mike got real sick, they both passed from cancer. They spent their life in public service, and they cared for people, that is about it.”
Chris and Mike's family donated $60,000, which the school used to build the sensory playground, and will also build a LEGO and marble wall within the school's media center, along with a movement area in the gym.
For the teachers and staff who knew Chris, it's overwhelming.
"I just didn’t think I would be this emotional. It’s exactly what she’d want," said Sullivan.