Elliot Dowd, 12, who just completed the sixth grade at Washburn Elementary School in Auburn, stands on a rough field of the school’s playground. In May, Elliot wrote to NET Sports Group of Saco asking for help. The company responded pledging to donate $100,000 worth of artificial turf, planned to be installed before school starts.

AUBURN — Elliot Dowd, 12, stood Monday on a large, dusty field, where he and other Washburn Elementary School students played during recess and gym.

It’s rough, full of weeds, rocks and hard, dried dirt. When playing tag football or whiffle ball, Elliot said kids often fall and get hurt.

Thanks to Elliot, that’s about to change.

Between now and when school starts, NET Sports Group of Saco will install a new, 176- by 170-foot artificial turf field, complete with striped track lanes “and a few other surprises,” NET owner Harlan Michaud said.

“We’re going to make it really nice,” he said.

NET is donating $100,000 toward the $189,000 project after getting a letter in May from Elliot, then a sixth-grader. The School Department will pick up the rest of the costs, Business Manager Jude Cyr said.

During an interview on Monday, Elliot explained how it happened.

His teacher, Michelle Gagne, encouraged Elliot to leave “a legacy” to his school. They talked about how kids get hurt on the dirt field, how it needed an artificial turf surface.

“She said, ‘We don’t have enough money in the budget,’” Elliot said. She suggested he write to NET.

Before Elliot sent his letter, he and the school custodian took measurements and photos.

Michaud, who grew up with Gagne in Winslow, said he was touched by the boy’s letter, which started with, “Have you heard of Washburn School? If you had, you would know that we have 275 kids in our school and all of those kids like to play outside and have fun!”

But for years, students have gotten injured playing on the rocky, dirt field, Elliot wrote, adding that the school is “in dire need to have a safer place to exercise and play.”

Michaud said the student’s research and request “was a very unselfish act from a good kid.”

Elliot is not even going to Washburn this fall, since he will be a seventh-grader attending Auburn Middle School, Michaud said.

After receiving the letter and photos, Michaud visited Washburn to meet with Elliot “and see what we’re dealing with.”

Michaud agreed the playing field is rough, and said his company would help.

“I can’t give enough credit to Elliot,” Michaud said. “If he was of age, I’d hire him.”

Elliot and his mother said the idea to leave a legacy was to turn around a couple of rough years at Washburn. Sometimes Elliot clashed with other students and teachers.

“I’m really excited I’m able to leave something behind for my school instead of having memories of me causing trouble,” he said. “It’s going to leave a good legacy. Kids can play games and have a better gym class than running around on a dirt field.”

His mother, Tina Dowd, is thrilled.

“I’m proud he can use his powers for good,” she said.

School Department Business Manager Judy Cyr is also thrilled.

There’s been a drainage problem on the Washburn field for years, Cyr said. The water, plus constant use, made it tough to grow grass, he said. There was some money in the budget for the Washburn play yard, but not enough.

“This is tremendous,” Cyr said, adding he gives kudos to Elliot.

The improvements will not only benefit Washburn students but the neighborhood families who use the play area on nights and weekends, Cyr said.

As Elliot enters middle school, he said he’s thinking about someday being an engineer, or maybe a veterinarian.

“I like animals,” he said. “We have a cat named Wolf.”

 

 

AUBURN — NET Sports Group, which has agreed to donate $100,000 worth of work to Washburn Elementary School, is the same company working with Lewiston school officials building three athletic fields as part of the new elementary school project, owner Harlan Michaud said.

“A lot of good things are happening in Lewiston,” he said.

The company occasionally helps out good causes, Michaud said.

“As an organization, we’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “When you can give back to the community, it all works out.”

A number of the NET crew live in the Lewiston area, Michaud said.

“That makes this more special,” he said.