Northeast Times

It's purrfect! Cat litter company lends a helping paw to highlight the great outdoors

Meghan La­montagne goes in for a hug by Wat­son T. Comly Ele­ment­ary stu­dents, after a Today Cats press con­frence in­tro­du­cing an out­side classromm for the school, Thursday, May 3, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

Wat­son T. Comly prin­cip­al Michelle “Micki” Byr­uch has been on the job three years and has al­ways wanted to spruce up a 4,200-square-foot plot of land just out­side the Kelvin Av­en­ue en­trance.

“It’s been on my wish list,” she said.

The ground went largely un­used.

“It was a bed of weeds,” the prin­cip­al said.

The Somer­ton dis­trict of­fice of state Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-170th dist.) knew of Comly’s plight.

Mean­while, St. Louis-based Tidy Cats  — a Pur­ina brand cat lit­ter — was on the lookout to help com­munity pro­jects across the coun­try.

Tidy Cats has im­ple­men­ted a No More PU cam­paign. In do­ing some re­search, the com­pany learned that Boyle was deal­ing with a safety is­sue on train tracks that run along the bor­der of the Somer­ton Youth Or­gan­iz­a­tion fields.

Of­fi­cials con­tac­ted Boyle’s of­fice but learned CSX was erect­ing a fence to take care of the safety con­cern.

Boyle’s of­fice knows of a num­ber of oth­er worthy com­munity pro­jects, in­clud­ing the grounds at Comly, loc­ated at 1001 By­berry Road. The school was hop­ing to cre­ate an “out­door classroom.”

The Tidy Cats crew agreed that the Comly pro­pos­al was an im­port­ant one, real­iz­ing that it “stinks” when pu­pils and teach­ers have to be cooped up in­side when the weath­er is nice. The kids can learn about nature and en­joy a change of scenery dur­ing an out­door les­son.

The com­pany agreed to fund an over­haul, start­ing with re­mov­al of the over­growth.

Land­scapers, along with Boyle aide Nick Himebaugh, did the heavy lift­ing on the $10,000 pro­ject. They planted flowers and laid mulch and grass in­to the early-morn­ing hours of May 3.

Later that af­ter­noon, the Comly stu­dents burst out the door to see their new out­door classroom.

The weeds and an un­sightly bush were re­moved, and a stump will be ground down. Oth­er trees re­main, and there are four heavy-duty tables that can sit eight stu­dents apiece.

“There’s enough seat­ing for thirty-two kids,” Byr­uch said.

Boyle said Comly is a strong school be­cause of its prin­cip­al, teach­ers and Home and School As­so­ci­ation, adding that the out­door classroom will be an ad­ded be­ne­fit.

“It’s pretty ex­cit­ing,” he said.

Boyle, who lives three blocks from Comly, said state fund­ing for such pro­jects is hard to come by these days, and he cred­its cor­por­ate part­ners like Tidy Cats with provid­ing the money.

“It’s something we’ve been pretty ag­gress­ive in pur­su­ing,” he said.

Bo­ston-based Meghan La­montagne and Sam Miller rep­res­en­ted the No More PU Patrol.

“Be­ing out­side can really en­hance and en­rich the learn­ing ex­per­i­ence,” said La­montagne, who told the young­sters that she wished she had an out­door classroom when she was in school.

All 485 stu­dents in kinder­garten through fifth grade signed a long ban­ner that read, “Thank you No More PU Patrol.” They also hugged La­montagne and Miller be­fore in­dul­ging in cup­cakes and oth­er re­fresh­ments.

“We hope you guys en­joy it,” Miller said.

Byr­uch said the area will get plenty of use and is open to any class. She thinks Kelvin Av­en­ue neigh­bors will ap­pre­ci­ate the up­grade.

“It’s a nice open space,” she said. “It’s a nice way to break up the day. There’s no reas­on for kids to not be out­side.”

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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