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Students raise $4k for disabilities community

By Lauren Ceronie
On January 22, 2013

This spring, a park in Hanover Township, Ohio will gain a wheelchair accessible swing, thanks to a group of Miami University students. The group of students, senior Christian Puckett, senior Hannah Ellinghausen, junior Tera Brown, first-year Bethany Kelley and first-year Alexandria Spencer, raised over $4000 for the swing as a project for an Introduction to Disabilities Studies class taught by educational psychology professor Ashley Johnson.

The class was split into groups and each group was instructed to come up with an idea to help someone in the community, according to Puckett.

"We originally wanted to put the wheelchair accessible swing in a school but decided it might be more beneficial for an entire community if we put it in a park," Puckett said.

The group went through a formal procedure where it wrote a proposal letter to the Hanover Township Board of Trustees that was presented by Puckett Nov. 13, 2012. Before the project could be approved, Hanover Township had a contractor estimate the cost of the swing-$5600.

Puckett said her group was surprised but not deterred by the price.

"It's a swing, you don't think that it's going to cost that much money," Puckett said. "And remember, this is just students going out on their own and raising money."

Although they faced doubters, the group of Miami students hit the streets to raise money for the swing. Most donations came from family, friends and local businesses, according to Puckett. The two largest donors were the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities in Hamilton and the Meijer grocery store in Hamilton, according to Puckett.

"We were overwhelmed with donations," Puckett said. "I had checks coming to my house every single day."

In a bit less than five weeks, Puckett and her group raised over $4000 and Hanover Township matched with $1600, 30 percent of what the swing would cost.

After a semester of work, the students presented their donation to Hanover Township Jan. 16 on a giant check made for them by the university.

The Hanover Township contractor plans to begin building the swing in March, according to Puckett.

"This is a big deal to us," Puckett said. "We want this to be recognized because we people forget about the disabilities community. We were doubted a lot, but when you set your mind to something you really want to do, you can do it."

According to Ashley Johnson, who teaches the disabilities studies class, classes are instructed to complete an "action project." Most students focus on raising awareness of the disabilities community, but never with the financial impact of this group, Johnson said.

"I certainly have never had students raise as much money as this group," Johnson said. "They surpassed anything that I ever expected; I'm proud of them."

Johnson said she hopes this project will raise awareness about disabilities.

"I'm very excited about [the swing]," Johnson said. "I live in Hanover Township and I take my one-and-a-half yearold daughter to the park. I'll be reminded of all the hard work [the students] put in and the great things Miami students can do."

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