A Slam Dunk for Center Hill Elementary School

CHES Principal Leslie Heyman, Assistant Principal Kristy Hale, and Rotarian Dr. Greg Evans joined students on the new basketball court.

A Slam Dunk for Center Hill Elementary School

CHES Principal Leslie Heyman, Assistant Principal Kristy Hale, and Rotarian Dr. Greg Evans joined students on the new basketball court. 

     When a school is a part of their community and a community is a part of the school, great things happen -- like the newly constructed “Becky Dearden Basketball Court” at Center Hill Elementary School. 

     CHES was home to Dearden for ten years.  She helped open the school as the first head principal. She remained as their servant leader until her illness forced her to retire in 2013.  She passed away in 2014.

     The Olive Branch Rotary Club and Becky Dearden had a long history.  After joining the club, Dearden learned the Rotarians wanted to work on meaningful projects that would make a lasting difference in their city. Dearden had a vision of what she wanted for her new campus, which was previously a barren cornfield.   A partnership started taking shape. “Rotary Park” was born.  Her PTO collaborated with the club to build a playground and a walking trail in memory of deceased Rotarians.  The park grew year after year. 

     Besides its walking trail, there is a baseball field, an outdoor classroom, many pieces of play equipment, and Project Fit America equipment, granted from Blue Cross & Blue Shield Foundation.  

     The newest addition to Rotary Park is the basketball court. Rotarians Dr. Greg Evans and Lisa Love were instrumental in launching this project. Other Rotary committee members for Dearden’s Service Project included David Baker, Tracy Kirkley, David McNeeley, Miles Mitchell, George Sago, and Tommy Salmon. 

Principal Heyman and AP Kristy Hale “high 5” each other after making a slam dunk on their new basketball court. 

     “Mrs. Dearden loved God, family, CHES staff and students, and the Memphis Grizzlies Basketball Team,” said CHES Principal Leslie Heyman.  “When the Rotary Club learned the school and PTO wanted to build a basketball court in her honor, they graciously agreed to help CHES take on this project to celebrate Mrs. Dearden’s love of her school and basketball.  Together, the basketball court is now a reality.” 

     What would Mrs. Dearden think of the newest addition at CHES? 

     “I was the assistant principal with Mrs. Dearden for one year,” said AP Kristy Hale. “I can imagine her face.  I know she would be in tears.  She was a devoted Rotarian and loved the Memphis Grizzlies as well as her staff.  Our teachers came up with the idea.   I believe she would agree that the basketball court was the perfect way to honor her memory.”