By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
The Kiwanis Club of Findlay is celebrating its 100th anniversary, but it’s the community that’s getting the gift.
The service club is partnering with the Hancock Historical Museum to develop Brucklacher Memorial Park at the site of the Little Red Schoolhouse on County Road 236. The park will include a playground, child-oriented sculpture and landscaping in about 10,000 square feet. The cost of the project is estimated at $185,000.
“We’re very excited,” Kiwanis president Sarah Clevidence said.
“I will be excited when the last piece of mulch is in place,” laughed Rick Kidwell, past president and chairman of the Brucklacher Park Committee.
The park will be named after the late James Brucklacher, a past president of the Findlay Kiwanis Club and a trustee of the club’s foundation, as well as a founder, past president and longtime trustee of the Hancock Historical Museum. He died in 2018 at age 94.
“His daughter fully supported this, was just very, very appreciative that we thought of her dad that way,” said Kidwell.
The club, which currently has 104 members, has been busy preparing for this centennial anniversary.
“It’s an unusual thing for a club to survive that long,” Kidwell said.
There were two planning committees — one that organized the gala event held recently at Brugeman Lodge and the other to look for a project for the 100th anniversary year.
Kidwell said the committee discussed several ideas, and particularly wanted a project that would have significant impact on children, since that’s the focus of Kiwanis. Longevity was also an important consideration, he added, as the club wanted “something that would last maybe another 100 years.”
Once they came up with the idea, Kidwell and his committee made a presentation to the club.
“And that was just an incredibly moving meeting,” said Clevidence. “He shared the vision for the project and what it could really mean to the community, and to our club’s visibility in the community. And he had a resounding ‘Yes, this is what we want to do for 100th anniversary.'”
The historical museum staff and board members also agreed.
The location is the perfect spot for the park, they noted. Each year, more than 1,000 gradeschool children visit the Little Red Schoolhouse — which is maintained by the museum — to experience what a school day was like in back in 1800s when the school was built. There are also an estimated 500 children between the ages of 5 and 12 who live within walking distance of the property, the club said.
“We want to make it a destination park where a family gets up on Saturday and says, ‘What do you want to do today?’ And the kids say, ‘We want to go to Brucklacher Park,'” said Kidwell.
Irvin Reinhart from RCM Architects, who is also a past president of Kiwanis, offered his help with the project.
“From my perspective, I can tell you things started running a lot more smoothly once Irv jumped in, because he knows how to do this,” Clevidence said. “I know how to make up a spreadsheet. Rick gave a moving presentation to rally the troops. And Irv can tell us what we need to do to make it happen.”
She said Reinhart brought on Van Horn, Hoover & Associates, to help with some of the preliminary site planning.
The playground equipment was purchased from Landscape Structures Co. in Minnesota and offers areas to climb, two slides, a four-seat spinner and two spring rides. There’s also an oil derrick teeter-totter that is being sponsored by Marathon Petroleum Corp., said Clevidence, adding that Brucklacher retired from Marathon.
Work is expected to start this summer, and community members will be invited to come and help with the build. A consultant from the playground company will direct the installation of the equipment.
“We had a number of members that participated in the Miracle Field playground build, so we’ve got a little background,” said Kidwell.
An 8-foot-tall bronze sculpture titled “Five Children in a Tree” will add an art element to the park. Clevidence said an anonymous donor funded the purchase of the sculpture.
“I know I get overzealous at times,” said Kidwell. “But that, in my perspective, is the first piece of many pieces of sculpture we’d like to get here at some point, all child-oriented.”
There will also be several benches.
“I think one of the things our club liked about this project is our ability to be involved with it on a continuing basis,” Clevidence said. “Mulch will need refreshed. The landscaping will need cleaned up every year. And that can be some nice service day projects for our club.”
To date, about two-thirds of the project cost has been raised.
“Our club has had some very successful fundraisers the last couple of years, so we’ve built up a small amount of excess funds that we can designate to this project,” Clevidence said. “But we are still actively fundraising.”
Donations in the form of checks made payable to Findlay Kiwanis Foundation, Inc. can be mailed to P.O. Box 237, Findlay OH 45840. Donations are tax-deductible. For more information, contact Kidwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or Clevidence at 419-722-8309.