From the basketball court dedicated in his honor to a character award that bears his name, the legacy of the late Mason Goodnight can be felt everywhere at Cumberland Trace Elementary School.

“His fingerprints are all over the place,” Wes Cottongim, the school’s principal, said of Mason, who was a fourth grade student at the school before he died from bacterial meningitis in 2017.

Now, thanks to a $50,000 donation from the Playing for Mason Foundation, that legacy will live on at the new Cumberland Trace Elementary School that is under construction and set to open in 2021.

The gift, made possible by an anonymous donor, will help cover the cost of a new, state-of-the-art playground at the school.

The Goodnight family has also committed to a $10,000 gift, paid over five years, to help fund the cost of the playground.

For Cottongim, the grant helps relieve a “tremendous” burden.

The school’s parent-teacher association has been selling commemorative bricks to help cover the cost of playground equipment, and every dollar counts, Cottongim said.

“It allows us to really move forward with other aspects of planning for the new school,” he said, adding the school is appreciative and humbled by the support.

To those who knew him best, Mason was in his element at recess, where he had the most fun.

Jef Goodnight, Mason’s father, can think of no better way to honor his son’s memory than to dedicate a playground – where children run and play – in his name.

“That was Mason,” said Jef Goodnight, who remembers his son as a caring boy who made a point of including others.

“He never got in trouble, and he never wanted to disappoint anybody,” Jef Goodnight said. “I know that he is smiling down, knowing that we have done this with this foundation in his name.”

Jef and his wife, Janna, have continued to stay involved in their son’s school. Each year, they help give an award to two sixth grade students, a boy and a girl, who exemplify some of Mason’s hallmark qualities – kindness, respect, humility and character.

This latest gift is an outgrowth of the gratitude Jef Goodnight said his family feels for the support they’ve received from the community during a difficult loss.

“For us to give back to this community … it really, really warms our hearts,” he said.

– To help support the fundraiser for Cumberland Trace’s new playground, visit the website at 2Twhcjf.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit


Education reporter. Covers education and related issues, focusing primarily on the Bowling Green and Warren County public school districts and Western Kentucky University.

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