Using money gathered from car shows and individual donations, the Rock Creek Vietnam Veterans of Gainesville donated $4,000 to Sisu Integrated Early Learning Wednesday, Oct. 28.
The funds will go toward helping the nonprofit build a 20-by-20-foot shade structure, for outdoor classroom and other space. Sisu, formally known as Challenged Child and Friends, provides a learning environment for special needs children six weeks of age to 6 years old.
Because of the pandemic, Jamie Reynolds, the nonprofit’s executive director, said outdoor classroom space has become highly valuable to the kids at Sisu. With the veteran group's help, she said the organization will be able to expand its outside offerings and create a safer environment for the children.
“We talked about this project last spring,” Reynolds said. “Part of our governance is we need to have a certain amount of that space shaded in order to use it effectively.”
Reynolds said she hopes to have the structure erected in the spring of 2021 with picnic tables placed underneath.
“It’s always more, and they always try to do more as individuals and as a group,” Reynolds said while looking at the group of veterans. “I find it remarkable that they’re still here today. The pandemic hasn’t stopped them in their kindness and their generosity.”
Johnny Hulsey, who served as an Army tanker during the Vietnam War, said the Rock Creek Vietnam Veterans have worked since 2006 to build monuments and improve Rock Creek Veterans Park. After visiting Sisu on several occasions and hearing about the needed shade structure, Hulsey said the group felt inspired to use their funds to help.
“This little academy right here is amazing with what they do for these little children,” Hulsey said with emotion. “These teachers here are so special. If it (Sisu) doesn’t touch your heart, there’s something wrong.”
Although the $4,000 donation covers the cost of the structure, Reynolds said the nonprofit still needs help with its installation, whether that includes monetary donations or volunteers to set it up. To offer your support, call Sisu at 770-535-8372.