Before her death in 2009, Amber Lousteau spent many hours on Trinity Episcopal School’s playground.
She’d started working there as a kindergarten teacher’s aide nearly 20 years before, and the playground came with the territory, said Brooke Johnson, Trinity’s development director.
As part of their 2013-14 Building Our Future fundraising campaign, the school decided to replace the aging pre-kindergarten playground with a newer, safer, more durable one. With the blessing of the family, they decided to build it in honor of Lousteau’s long career at Trinity.
It turned out to be the most successful targeted fundraiser in the school’s history.
“Most years, we are able to raise around $30,000 to $40,000. Our most successful year was $60,000,” she said.
The 2013-14 campaign in Lousteau’s memory raised $191,000.
The school will officially open its playground with a Friday ribbon-cutting.
“It was amazing. First of all, everyone we asked to give said yes,” she said, adding that many supporters ended up giving additional gifts outside of the memorial campaign.
In addition to that, word of the campaign spread on Facebook, and the school received contributions from all over the country. Johnson said she attributes much of the momentum to Lousteau’s reputation and connections she made at the school, both with students, teachers and parents.
“She touched so many lives over the years,” Johnson said. “We began with our Trinity school families who all responded with enthusiasm over making this change, we reached out to church parishioners, and then began using Facebook to get the word out.
“Many students of Amber’s found out through Facebook and wanted to give back. Some of them were in other states and wanted to be a part of the effort because of their love for Trinity and for Miss Amber. It was wonderful hearing from former students and friends that had so many fond memories of their days at Trinity, days that they spent on the very playground we were renovating.”
Both Lousteau’s children, a son and a daughter, attended Trinity as students.
“She started the job the year I started prekindergarten here,” said daughter Jennifer Lousteau, who also decided to become an educator. She said the choice of where to teach was a natural one.
“So I have an incredibly strong connection to the school,” Jennifer Lousteau said.
That connection is even stronger with the addition of the playground, and not just because it’s dedicated to her mother.
Before her mother died of lung cancer, her aunt died of breast cancer.
“My aunt loved butterflies, so my mom and I had this story that every time we saw butterflies, we’d think of her,” Lousteau said.
She was shocked to the point of tears, she said, when she saw that the playground plans included a butterfly garden.
“I love spending time out there,” she said, which she does quite often. “I have always felt her in this school. It was such a part of our lives, but it’s even stronger now.”
The campaign surpassed the $150,000 goal, Johnson said, which she thought would be a stretch. And wih the extra funds, the school purchased computers for student use.