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The Downtown Exchange Club is challenging the community to match its $10,000 denotation to help purchase new playground equipment for Beartooth Elementary.

The school's PTA has been raising money for the equipment, which if ordered by Dec. 1 can save the PTA a 15 percent increase in the cost. There was a 7 percent increase earlier this year when a fuel surcharge was added.

When the Downtown Exchange Club learned of the group's efforts, members were eager to help, said club secretary Kendra Bahm.

The PTA has raised more than one-third of the $30,000 needed for the equipment, which would be installed in two phases. After an article about the PTA's effort was published in the Nov. 3 Gazette, "two wonderful women" donated $525 and the group received a $1,000 grant from Harvest Church, said PTA Secretary Becky Middendorf.

Any size of donation is appreciated, she said.

"We can keep the ball rolling with small amounts," she said.

The playground is used by students at Beartooth but also by children who visit the neighborhood and those who are home-schooled, she said.

"This is for the community," Middendorf said.

The current equipment has been used by two generations of students and does not meet today's standards for safety.

The monkey bars and slide are placed in wood, which gives the children splinters and is a host to beehives. The other equipment includes large equipment tires, which leave kids and their clothes dirty, and concrete pieces that could cause serious injuries if children fall.

The Exchange Club is a national volunteer service organization that promotes youth, community service and Americanism.

The Downtown Exchange Club issued a community challenge in 2006 to raise money for playground equipment at Orchard Elementary. Members have also donated to similar projects at Big Sky, Alkali Creek and Newman elementaries.

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