Angel Watches Over Fulton County School Playgrounds
Sunshades covering five playgrounds in and around Fulton County double as angel's wings.
When Tara Parla was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2010, "we decided to turn our negative into a positive, and start something," says Tara's husband, Jon.
That is how The Passion Foundation was born.
Jon and Tara built the foundation from the ground up, keeping one goal in focus.
Jon Parla says of his wife, "If she could protect one kid from going through the battle that she went through, she's done her job."
That protection comes in the form of playground canopies donated and assembled by The Passion Foundation.
On the playground, Parla says, "Kids don't want to wear sunscreen. They just want to go play."
Parla says the sunshades can keep playgrounds up to 20 degrees cooler and "block up to 97% of the UV rays. And that's huge."
The impact of The Passion Foundation's work spans two states.
"We started in Florida and our community where we lived at the time when she was sick," says Parla.
Tara lived to see two schools receive sunshades from The Passion Foundation. She passed away in 2012.
Jon moved to Georgia with their children and knew her mission needed to continue.
"We started with Roswell North Elementary. That's where my kids went," Parla says.
From there, The Passion Foundation built playground sunshades for Vickery Mill Elementary, Mountain Park Elementary, and Cornerstone Preschool. Their most recent project, "our biggest one we've ever done," says Parla, is at Esther Jackson Elementary School.
"The playground is huge," says Esther Jackson principal Nikol Boyd. "You know how the sun is in Georgia."
Boyd came to Esther Jackson six years ago and immediately knew something needed to be done to improve the playground. A sunshade was at the top of her list but finding money for it was a factor.
"We looked at how much they cost, and it was way too expensive for our school," says Boyd.
Esther Jackson Elementary is a Title I school, and the price of the sunshades is in the five figures. Boyd tried for years to find a way to pay for the project.
That is where timing, and maybe Tara's intervention from above, came into play.
A member of Esther Jackson's School Governance Council started working with The Passion Foundation, helping with social media. He connected Parla and Boyd, and the project got moving.
"I was so excited," says Boyd.
Parla and Boyd were able to find a way to pay for the playground sunshade, combining funds from the School Governance Council and The Passion Foundation.
"We wanted to do this for our kids," says Boyd.
Work on the sunshade project at Esther Jackson Elementary started over the summer and is set to wrap up soon.
The Passion Foundation continues Tara's mission and raises money through donations, a golf outing each November, and a fundraiser in April. If you'd like to help, contact The Passion Foundation on their Facebook page.