Greenwood Elementary School will receive a $7,000 grant for its Family Reading Challenge program to build early literacy.

At a glance

The Wildhorse Foundation has donated more than $10 million since being founded in 2001, including $886,488 in 2016. Here’s where grants in 2016 were handed:

Riddled with cracks, La Grande High School’s four tennis courts are losing their matches against Father Time, but that will soon be a thing of the past thanks in part to the Wildhorse Foundation.

The foundation has announced it will donate $10,000 to the City of La Grande to help restore LHS’s aging tennis courts. The money is part of $62,361 the Wildhorse Foundation is awarding to nonprofit organizations in Union and Wallowa counties in its first round of 2017 grants.

The LHS tennis court grant is one of three $10,000 awards presented to organizations in Union and Wallowa counties. The two others went to Safe Harbors Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims Services and Wallowa Resources, both of Enterprise.

The grants awarded in Union and Wallowa counties are part of $264,541 the Wildhorse Foundation has donated to 41 organizations in Oregon and Washington so far this year. The Wildhorse Foundation, with its latest round of donations, has now topped the $10 million mark. The foundation has made $10.4 million in contributions since it was founded in 2001.

The Wildhorse Foundation was formed for the purpose of formalizing the charitable giving on behalf of Wildhorse Resort & Casino and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

La Grande School District Superintendent Larry Glaze is delighted with the tennis court grant, partly because it will help spark a fundraising campaign that is in its early stages.

“It is very timely,” Glaze said.

The City of La Grande is partnering with the La Grande School District in its efforts to restore the tennis courts. The city began leasing the tennis courts from the school district earlier this year to allow it to qualify for a grant of about $200,000 from Oregon State Parks for restoration of the courts.

The lease agreement was needed because the grants are available to cities and other municipalities but not school districts. Stu Spence, the City of La Grande Parks and Rec director, said the grant funding for the tennis courts is available only if an agreement is in place for the city to lease the courts from the school district. The city and school district must raise about $200,000 in matching funds to qualify for the grant.

The grant from Wildhorse puts the city and school district significantly closer to their goal of $200,000. The remainder of the matching money will be raised from donations, which may include donations of services by local contractors, Spence said.

The $10,000 grant Wallowa Resources received is earmarked for a work vehicle for the Wallowa Canyonlands Partnership Weed Program, according to a Wildhorse news release. This cooperative weed management program coordinates the efforts of private landowners, Wallowa County and state and federal agencies.

Safe Harbors will use its $10,000 grant to purchase a secondary vehicle. The vehicle will ensure the availability of transportation for clients in need and will be used by staff on training session trips. Safe Harbors’ primary purposes are to
provide assistance to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and to provide community education to break the cycle of violence, according to its website.

Shelter From the Storm in Island City, which also helps victims of domestic violence, received $6,263 from the Wildhorse Foundation. The award will go toward emergency shelter and building support.

On the emergency services front, the Enterprise Fire Department received $6,888 for the purchase of a Scott Sight thermal imaging mask. The mask helps firefighters see through thick smoke and identify hot spots in a fire.

The remainder of the grants awarded in Union and Wallowa counties went to programs benefiting schools and their students, including the La Grande Middle School library, which received $6,185 from Wildhorse for the purchase of new chairs.

“I’m ecstatic,” said LMS Library Assistant Keri Myer.

Myer said the grant was badly needed because almost all of the library’s 90 chairs are the ones it had when LMS opened in 1976.

“They keep falling apart,” Myer said.

She said the library’s tables are the same age as the chairs but believes it is more important to replace the chrome-framed chairs because of safety concerns.

Greenwood Elementary School landed a $7,000 grant for its Family Reading Challenge program to build early literacy. The focus of the program is to improve the access students have to good books, promote “joyful reading” and get children to become frequent readers at a young age, said Greenwood Principal Ryan Westenskow. The program seeks to provide children greater access to books that interest them. This means that much of the Wildhorse grant money will be spent on new books, many of which the students will be able to take home.

“Children need constant exposure to high interest books,” Westenskow said. “We want to flood the homes of our students with books.”

Another grant awarded to the La Grande School District will benefit Central Elementary School. A grant of $5,000 was awarded to the district for the construction of an outdoor sensory classroom at the new Central building being constructed at Second Street and H Avenue.

“This is fantastic. It is a testament to the value people see in the project,” said Landon Braden, the head of La Grande High School’s special education program and one of the leaders of the outdoor sensory classroom project.

The outdoor classroom, which will be within protective walls, will be in the front portion of the new school. The plans call for a wheelchair-accessible garden and play area, a magnet chalkboard wall, a concrete pathway, a playhouse, wood chip surfacing, a gravel pathway and a sensory table featuring items like a raised sandbox for students in wheelchairs.

The classroom, which will cost $150,000, is intended to be used by all students in the school district. The sensory elements, however, will be specifically designed for students with autism.

The Wildhorse Foundation also awarded a grant of $5,000 to the Friday Backpack program, which provides food to children from lower income families in each of Union County’s school districts.

“I am thrilled,” Heather Null, a Friday Backpack volunteer, said of the Wildhorse grant.

Null said the grant will help the Friday Backpack program provide more fresh fruit and protein-rich foods like canned chicken and tuna.

The Wallowa School District will get a $6,025 boost from the Wildhorse Foundation. The grant will be spent on technological items for mathematics education, according to the Wildhorse press release.

The Wildhorse Foundation also awarded $750 to Oregon Rural Action of La Grande. The money will be used to promote the organization’s campaign to heighten awareness of the potential hazards posed by trains pulling cars filled with oil through Union County.