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Going to war with the pennies you have ... for Big Blue Blocks

December 9, 2017 GMT

Three area after-school programs have declared war on each other. But they’re looking forward to a post-war peace when they share in the spoils – a set of Big Blue Blocks.

The 105-piece set of lightweight foam blocks, made by Imagination Playground, includes various shapes that are meant to stimulate creative kid play.

Lisa Maunu, who heads up the YMCA’s KidStop program, told the Capital Journal the cost of the blocks will be $7,000. That includes a discount to the YMCA, which was a selling point to the other programs who are in a “penny war” to pay for the blocks.

Engaged in friendly hostilities with the YMCA are the Stanley County Schools G.O.L.D. program and the Boys and Girls Club of the Capital Area. Ordnance in a penny war includes, not surprisingly, pennies – which can be added to the “home team” jar set up at each of the program locations.

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Next to each of those penny jars are two jars for the other competing programs. They’re for higher caliber shots – silver coins – which can be fired into a competing organization’s jar, counting as negative points.

At midweek the jars at the Pierre YMCA and the G.O.L.D program in Fort Pierre did not appear to hold currency that came anywhere close to $7,000. A call to the Boys and Girls Club revealed they hadn’t yet deployed their penny jars.

Maunu said the end of the penny war, originally set for Friday, might be extended a week.

But the penny war wasn’t anticipated to pay the whole bill, Maunu said. Additional fundraisers for the Big Blue Blocks are being planned out – nothing definite yet, though.

A different fundraising goal connected to the blue blocks has already been solved. The planned shared arrangement for the blocks needs a convenient way to transport them from one program to another – like a trailer. A trailer that the Discovery Center was looking to liquidate was purchased with a $2,100 grant from the Pierre/Fort Pierre Area Community Foundation.

The grant was written by Laura Schoen Carbonneau – as a volunteer and parent of a child at the YMCA, not in her capacity as the CEO of the Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce. But the Discovery Center is located right next to the Chamber, Carbonneau said, and from talking to the center’s executive director, Kristie Maher, she knew about the center’s plans for the trailer.

Carbonneau also said the fundraising for the blocks would be ongoing, after the penny war ends – unless someone, perhaps like a Santa Claus, wanted to do something special this year.

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Pierre area residents might have already seen Big Blue Blocks in person – at the Taste of Pierre that was a part of this year’s Oahe Days. Those blocks were on loan from the Children’s Museum of South Dakota in Brookings.

The museum’s associate director, Mike Mogard, told the Capital Journal the blocks are really popular. They rotate through one of the exhibits, he said, and when they disappear, people do ask about them.

Explaining their appeal, Mogard said, “It’s a simple idea, but there’s something magical about them. You can lift this block that’s bigger than you!”