Community fundraisers aim
to renovate MDES playfield

playfield-committee-for-websiteFlush with fundraising success for last summer’s American Cancer Society Relay for Life, volunteers have turned their attention to the playfields at Mt. ­Diablo Elementary School. Pictured on the field at the historical monument marking Clayton’s first school, MDE teacher Debra Daubenspeck, Relay committee members Pat Middendorf, Nancy Salmon, Debra Gonsalves, PFC members Erin Bennett, Michele Hill and Holly Tillman. (Photo by Tamara Steiner)

The gophers that have been living rent-free under the Mt. Diablo Elementary School playing field for the last 30 years better start looking for a new place to live. The fundraising group that raised over $140,000 for the Clayton Relay for Life last year has turned its attention to a full renovation of the playing field by 2018.

“The field is dangerous,” says committee co-chair Nancy Salmon. “Between the lack of regular maintenance and watering over the years and the gopher population, the field just seems to worsen over time.”

The idea first got legs when the Relay Committee began to question whether it was wise to raise so much money from a small community only to send it outside that community. The Relay for Life was held on the playing field in 2015 and 2016. Committee members recalled how hard it was to work around the rough spots and gopher holes for the two-day event, and the renovation project quickly began to take form.

They met with school principal Dawn Edwards and MDUSD Superintendent Dr. Nellie Meyer. Field renovation was not on anyone’s radar, said Edwards, and there are no District funds available for the project. But both Edwards and Meyer are fully behind the community effort.

The District will support the project with staff time, expertise and materials, says Meyer. “Most elementary students lack enough physical movement and time for play,” she said in a letter supporting the project. “It is our hope that this project will open up a new space to run, have organized games and beautify the campus.”

Plans for the new field are still in the very early stages, but the committee’s vision includes artificial turf and a resurfaced track. Cost estimates vary between $300,000 and $700,000; depending on how much of the work can be done by volunteers and how fast the committee can raise the money.

Last year’s Relay fundraisers include the resurrection of the historic and very popular Clayton Round-Up, a BBQ, dance and silent auction held at Easley Ranch on Marsh Creek Rd. More than 500 attended that event. The Round-Up will be back again this summer along with a host of other fundraising efforts throughout the year.  Half of all funds raised will go toward the playfield project and half will go to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

Salmon co-chairs the committee with Pat Middendorf, Michele Hill and Debra Gonsalves, all seasoned volunteers from Relay for Life and other civic activities.

The MDES Playfield Project’s first fundraiser is this Friday, Jan. 13 at Oakhurst Country Club from 6-10 p.m.  A host of local restaurants will present “a Taste of Mt. Diablo” wine, beer and food tasting. Tickets are $75 and available at the door.

To donate to the effort or to help on the committee, ­email Salmon at More information is on the group’s Facebook page,