Max Schollenberger didn’t get the childhood he deserved.

But his memory has inspired a project that will ensure his name, at least, is remembered.

Max’s Place, named in his honor, is a new playground that will grace the grounds at Annville Elementary School by the start of school next fall.

Background

Max, of Annville, was found dead in his bed on the morning of May 26, 2020. He was naked, emaciated, covered in feces and showed visible signs of malnutrition and starvation. Prosecutors argued that Max died due to a combination of prolonged starvation and blunt force head injuries suffered while under the couple’s care.

The boy’s father, 43-year-old Scott Schollenberger Jr., pleaded guilty in February on charges including criminal homicide, endangering the welfare of children, and criminal conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children. He will spend the rest of his life in prison.

In March, a jury found 37-year-old Kimberly Maurer guilty of first-degree murder and seven other charges for her role in Max’s death. She will be sentenced on June 1 and also faces life in prison without parole, the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder in Pennsylvania.

Read more: Coverage of Max Schollenberger’s story.

Momentum

Annville-Cleona School District announced plans for the playground on Facebook on March 29.

Reactions from the community were swift.

“I am not in your school district, but Max’s story pulled at my heartstrings,” Missy Patrick wrote on the district’s page. “You couldn’t have asked for better tribute than a playground in his honor.”

“How cool is this?!!” Janelle Miller added. “Great job A-C!”

“What a wonderful idea!” said Tammy Hartman Hankins.

“Love this!!!” agreed Mary Ewart. “Thank you for honoring him. It would be great to post a report child abuse phone number at all playgrounds too.”

According to district officials, the plan initially garner support from the late state Senator Dave Arnold and was continued by his successor, Senator Chris Gebhard.

“The process started with Senator Arnold, who felt strongly that a memorial honoring Max should be done. Senator Gebhard wholeheartedly agreed,” Gebhard’s chief of staff, Matthew Urban, told LebTown.

“This past summer, the Superintendent of Annville reached out to check on the status of funds for the playground,” Urban explained in an email. “After following up with the Appropriations Chair and Senate Leadership, we were given guidance on what steps Annville School District still needed to take to complete the application procedure. We were more than happy to help.”

Gebhard said in a statement that it was his “honor to continue the process the late Senator Arnold started to honor Max. It is my hope that this playground will stand as testament to the life of Max and all the victims of child abuse.”

Plans & funding

Annville Elementary School Principal Ross Hopple noted in an email to LebTown that the community “had requested a memorial in Max Schollenberger’s honor.” Arnold secured a grant opportunity to fund the project, Hopple said, and Gebhard moved the process along.

The funds, Hopple explained, came through a Job Training and Education grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the General Assembly.

“The $100,000 will cover the cost and installation of the playground as well as a placard for the playground dubbing it ‘Max’s Place,'” Hopple said. “The Annville-Cleona School District will not need to supplement the cost of the playground with its own funds.”

The project was designed with inclusivity in mind, he said.

“The design of the playground is meant to be more inclusive for all children,” Hopple said in an email. “There are features associated with the playground that will provide access to the equipment for all children regardless of their mobility ability. Those features include a poured rubber surface, ramps, and sensory panels. It will be in our school color of red to match the other playgrounds at Annville Elementary.”

A sketch of the playground’s layout from above.

River Valley Recreation, a supplier of playground equipment based in Wrightsville, York County, is expected to complete installation by August. The new feature will be sited on the south side of the school where, Hopple said, there is an existing play area but no equipment.

Max’s Place will be the elementary school’s third playground, he said.

“Our intention is to not fence in the playground so that it remains open for all children in the community and is available outside of school hours,” he added.


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