The death of 7-year-old Hannah Crutchfield left a hole in her eastside community when she died after being struck by a car outside her school last September, family and classmates said. Community members and government officials gathered at George W. Julian School 57 in Irvington Wednesday to announce a crowdfunding campaign to rebuild the school’s playground in honor of the first grader.
“I love that her classmates and friends remember her most when they're playing on the playground and want to make the space more colorful and fun like she was,” said Cassandra Crutchfied, Hannah’s mother.
The initiative will replace the current playground structure with new free-standing equipment that is more accessible to students with physical limitations. The committee plans to work with local muralists to add art to the surrounding area. School 57 students came up with the idea to upgrade the playground. They’ve since made drawings of what they hope the new playground will look like.
The Hannah’s Memorial Playground Committee created an online campaign to raise $50,000 toward the playground upgrade. If the online campaign is fully funded, the school’s PTA will receive an additional $50,000 matching grant as part of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s CreatINg Places program.
Irvington community member and former Indianapolis Public Schools board commissioner Michael O’Connor said he will commit $5,000 for every dollar raised up to $5,000, and has an employer who will match his grant.
The complete cost to make the upgrade is $200,000. The additional funds to cover the cost will come from outside grants and other sources, according to the campaign.
“I think it says [as] much about honoring her memory as it is a way to take our grief and use it in a positive manner that will serve the full community and bring awareness to this issue around pedestrian safety that we have to just continue to be focused on as a city,” IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said.
Although many are excited about the project, some wished the community was raising funds for an improved playground rather than a playground that also serves as a memorial for a child killed while crossing the street. Hannah Crutchfield, along with her mother and a crossing guard, were struck by a car when walking home from school. Two people have since been charged in connection to her death.
“I know that we are not the only family and community who are grieving the loss of a child, a sibling, a loved one due to unsafe roads,” Crutchfield said. “Things need to change. We need to prioritize pedestrian and cycling safety, not just here in Irvington, but all over our city.”
Sen. Blake Johnson (D-Indianapolis) said he’s grateful for the funds, but the community still has work to do to educate people on safe driving and reduce the number of pedestrian crashes.
“In 2020 and 2021 each, 145 fatal crashes occurred here locally, marking a catastrophic increase over the prior years,” Johnson said. “Last year, 2,272 crashes resulting in incapacitating injury, 171 of which involved pedestrians or cyclists. Every single one of those accidents turned a family's lives upside down.”
Johnson said he will continue to work on legislation that aims to use innovative technology to reduce speed limits, specifically in school zones.
Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and Indianapolis Deputy Mayor of Neighborhood Engagement Judith Thomas were also in attendance.