Last week, Saline City Council approved a $38,472 purchase of a new play structure at Brecon Park. It wasn’t your run-of-the-mill government line-item. It was a significant milestone in one young man’s push to improve his neighborhood park.
Donavan Gillow, son of Jeff and Kimberly, is a sixth grader at Saline Middle School. He’s been working to bring new playground equipment to Brecon Park since third grade.
Gillow was excited when he learned the city funded the play structure.
“I had just come home from football practice and I was really excited,” Gillow said. “I’m really excited about this because this will be fun for a lot of people and a lot of people will be happy.”
Gillow started the project in third grade. He wrote a persuasive paper in Mr. Perry’s class, arguing that the residents around the neighborhood park deserved better playground equipment.
“We live near here. Every time I would come here I would just see swings and a merry-go-round and that’s basically it,” Gillow said. “I see other playgrounds in Saline that have a big structure but also this kind of stuff too.”
Gillow said the play structure will be an attraction.
“I think a lot more kids will come here,” he said.
Gillow then decided to send his paper to Mayor Brian Marl.
“He decided we should get started,” Gillow said.
Gillow’s work had just begun.
With the help of his parents he started fundraising. He started a GoFundMe campaign that has raised $34,035. Of that, $22,000 is from the City of Saline and another $10,000 from a CARES grant approved by the Board of Education. A lot of that fundraising was spurred by Gillow’s strong publicity campaign.
When he set up a donation table at FireHouse Friday at the Saline Area Fire Department, he went on the air with W4 Country’s Bubba Cowen to pitch his project. He appeared before Saline City Council and school board to talk about his project. He did presentations at school to other kids in his class. He also wrote hundreds of letters to local businesses for donations and to play structure companies, looking for a good deal for the city.
“He didn’t just ask for a play structure. He went to work to raise money and awareness for a much-needed play structure for Brecon Park,” Scruggs said.
Gillow still wasn’t done. Scruggs consulted Gillow before making her final recommendation to Saline City Council. Gillow also met with Miracle Midwest, the manufacturer of the equipment. Miracle Midwest also contributed to the project.
After council approved the project, Mayor Marl spoke of Gillow’s efforts and contributions to the city.
“It’s proof that one person can make a difference,” Marl said.
Gillow was told of the mayor’s words.
“I’ve heard that before and I’m glad I can be one of those people who have done that,” Gillow said.