MDWFP Foundation receives nearly $4 million grant for playground, pavilion

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation has awarded a $3,855,000 grant to the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, & Parks (MDWFP) Foundation for the LeFleur’s Bluff State Park Education and Tourism Partnership between the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks’ (MDWFP) Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and the Mississippi Children’s Museum.   

The LeFleur’s Bluff State Park playground will be located between the MDWFP’s Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and the Mississippi Children’s Museum. The grant will provide essential funds to create a state-of-the-art complex for physical and educational activities through a playground, outdoor classroom and pavilion, and museum walking trail.  

According to officials, the playground will feature 80 play activities, 73 of these features will be inclusive to children with accessibility needs, and will be separated into different play areas based on age, for children ages six months to 12 years old.  

The Outdoor Classroom and Pavilion will provide multiple functions for both museums, such as educational and outdoor programming for field trips and a place to showcase presentations for the award-winning Mississippi Science Festival. The pavilion will provide tables and seating for up to 50 students, as well as accommodate a larger assembly with an open-air amphitheater and grass lawn.  

Leaders said the Museum Walking Trail will provide engaging, family-oriented opportunities to travel between MDWFP’s Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and the Mississippi Children’s Museum, so guests can safely and conveniently visit both museums and the playground. The eight-foot wide walking trail will feature educational components from the Newbery Honor Award winning children’s book, Minn of the Mississippi.  

“The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is proud of its impact to empower lasting change that is evident in both the built environment and in the health of Mississippians,” said Dr. Thomas C. Fenter, Foundation Board Chairman. “The Foundation’s partnership with the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, & Parks Foundation to build a myriad of inclusive outdoor opportunities will encourage Mississippians to be active.” 

“The LeFleur’s Bluff State Park Playground, Outdoor Classroom and Pavilion and Museum Trail align with the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation’s strategic focus to provide sustainable health and well-being opportunities for Mississippians,” said Sheila B. Grogan, Foundation President. “Encouraging children, families and others to spend more time outside engaging in fun play activities, taking a walk or learning together in an outdoor classroom setting develops life-long positive attitudes about maintaining healthy lifestyles.” 

“The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks is truly excited to partner with so many organizations to offer children and families visiting LeFleur’s Bluff State Park and our museum an opportunity to enjoy an active outdoor experience on the new playground and walking trail,” said Dr. Sam Polles, Executive Director MDWFP. 

“The holiday season is brighter because of this generous gift from the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation to the MWFP Foundation! The agency and museum staff is thankful for the opportunity to work with our partners to develop creative as well as innovative uses for this outdoor space that will benefit Mississippi’s youth, families, students, teachers, and visitors to our great state,” said Angel Rohnke, Assistant Director, MDWFP’s Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. 

The Mississippi Children’s Museum is elated for the LeFleur’s Bluff State Park to receive these funds that will enhance the area and connect Mississippi children to greater experiences.  

“The LeFleur’s Bluff Educational and Tourism Partnership is transformational for our state. This partnership, between two award-winning museums, will provide state-of-the-art amenities and educational opportunities for everyone who visits. The strategic plan is innovative and sparks a vision for the future of Mississippi, and we are grateful for the vision and commitment of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation’s board of directors,” said Susan Garrard, President/CEO of the Mississippi Children’s Museum.   

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