Gift funds special-needs playground

Chris Kieffer I Daily Journal The North Mississippi Down Syndrome Society made a donation to Saltillo Elementary on Wednesday for a special-needs playground at the school. Pictured are Saltillo Mayor Rex Smith, from left, NMDSS Executive Director Scott Knight, Peyton Knight, Saltillo Elementary special education teacher Karen Nissen and NMDSS Board President Michael Storey.

Chris Kieffer | Daily Journal
The North Mississippi Down Syndrome Society made a donation to Saltillo Elementary on Wednesday for a special-needs playground at the school. Pictured are Saltillo Mayor Rex Smith, from left, NMDSS Executive Director Scott Knight, Peyton Knight, Saltillo Elementary special education teacher Karen Nissen and NMDSS Board President Michael Storey.

By Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

SALTILLO – Saltillo Elementary School special needs students soon will have a new playground thanks to a large donation received Wednesday.

The Northeast Mississippi Down Syndrome Society presented the school with $5,520, the largest donation the organization has made in its seven-year history. It will be used for the playground, which will be placed outside special education teacher Karen Nissen’s classroom.

“I’m will be an extension of the classroom,” Nissen said, noting the area will help with spatial awareness and sensory stimulation.

Scott and Michelle Knight founded the NEMDSS in 2006, following the birth of their youngest son, Peyton, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome. It serves 150 member families and provides support, financial assistance and workshops.

The organization gave $5,000 last year to April’s Angels in Fulton for a special-needs playground there and also gives grants and scholarships to special education teachers and high school seniors who chose to go to college in a field that works with those living with Down syndrome.

“We are proud to be part of this,” said Scott Knight, who also is an alderman in Saltillo. “It will help their lives, and we look forward to seeing children play on it.”

The idea for the playground began after a couple of fifth-grade students had written an essay about the need for one. The school’s PTO had begun collecting money for it. When Knight, who also has a son at the third- to fifth-grade school, heard that, he said the NEMDSS could fund it.

“This will be a wonderful opportunity to have it right outside their room, and we have such a wonderful teacher who will integrate it,” Saltillo Elementary School Principal Belinda McKinion said. “It is a blessing.”

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com