ST. MARTIN, MS (WLOX) - Some Jackson County parents are turning to social media to drum up funds to build a new school gym in St. Martin. The organization is issuing a challenge to businesses across South Mississippi and beyond.
When the playground is soggy, the car rider lane at St. Martin East Elementary doubles as a running track. Physical education teacher Joe Clark has to find any available space on campus to hold classes. That's because the school has never had a gym.
"It's upsetting and challenging. The past three years, I haven't had a classroom at all. We've grown so much, we don't have any place to do PE. The children here need a gym. They deserve a gym," said Clark.
"We need a gym, because it's not fun when we have to go to the library or the music room," said second grader Jaycee Carroll.
Plus, all of the school's PE equipment is crammed into a small shed.
"It's a challenge to get in and out of the shed," said Clark.
Clark is also on the school's PTO board. Three years ago, the group set a goal of building a 7,000-square-foot gym. It needs $400,000.
The PTO has raised half that amount but still needs at least $100,000 to get the structure built right behind the school. Last week, a local television station agreed to help out.
"They said, 'Hey, we'll give you $150 if you can get 500 likes,'" said Clark.
Within 24 hours, the company's Facebook page received all 500 likes and shares. This week, the PTO started reaching out to businesses across the Gulf Coast to join this social media challenge.
"We're looking at small businesses right now to say, 'We'll do that. Get 500 likes on our Facebook page and we'll give you a donation,'" said Clark.
That way, businesses can get more traffic on their page and the school can move one step closer to getting a gym.
"Happy, because we can play more games," said second grader Allen Ellerson.
"I think it's going to look really cool," said Jaycee.
The school needs at least 1,000 businesses to join the St. Martin East--Make It Happen Challenge.