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Woodbury girl goal oriented, by way of friendship

Manashree Padiyath and her best friend Sydney pose together in this elementary school photo. (Submitted photo)

A study skills project in Rachael Erickson’s class at Math and Science Academy produced a number of different ideas on how to make the world a better place.

But one by sixth grader Manashree Padiyath stood out not only for its uniqueness but its close connection to the Woodbury community.

The 12-year-old vowed to raise $5,000 for the Madison Claire Foundation to help build the all-accessible playground Madison’s Place.

Her project dubbed “H.A.P.P.Y. Place (Handicapped Accessible Playground for Pre-schoolers to Youth)” raised the first $5,000 in the first two weeks. So she upped her goal to $10,000, which she plans to continue working on over the summer.

As soon as she began going door-to-door in her Woodbury neighborhood, calling family, friends and her parents’ 3M network, she quickly gathered the donations. Then one donor promised to add $2,500 if she raised $5,000, which brings her total so far to about $7,500.

“You can see how invested she is,” Erickson said. “I think it would be hard to say no. She just has what it takes to meet those types of goals. If anybody was going to raise that amount of money it would definitely be Manashree.”

Manashree was inspired to start the campaign by her best friend since elementary school, Sydney, who has spinal muscular atrophy.

Sydney has been wheelchair-bound and unable to play with her friends on traditional playground structures.

“There was just one ramp but she couldn’t access the entire playground, which is really hard,” Manashree said.

When Manashree learned about Madison’s Place, she knew immediately she wanted to do something to help.

“Madison’s Place is supposed to be an inclusive playground, which means everybody can be there,” she said. “It’s built with people with disabilities and diseases in mind.”

Her assignment “World Issues: A look at the problem and their solutions” couldn’t have come at a better time. The Madison Claire Foundation was also starting a crowd funding campaign to raise the remaining $200,000.

Manashree created another crowd funding link to coincide with her door-to-door and in-person efforts at

“I really thought it would be impossible. I wanted to set a high goal but I also wanted it to be achievable,” she said. “I was not expecting to get to $5,000, but I got the community on board and everybody made a difference and every dollar counts.”

Most students in Manashree’s class chose topics like world hunger, animal abuse, pollution and invasive species. Her project stood out because it was specific to the community and close to her heart, Erickson said.

“I was really impressed,” she said. “Most of the kids picked something that was general or large and Manashree picked something that was very specific.

“She always seems to go above and beyond.”

Although the class project is done and students will bid farewell to this school year come Friday, Manashree plans to continue raising money for Madison Claire and help Sydney and other kids get the “Happy Place” they’ve been waiting for.

“We’re both really excited or this playground to be built,” she said.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.