Volunteers create one-of-a-kind playground at Boys and Girls Club of Blount County designed by area children
By Rheta Murry | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Though the rain poured down, the playground went up.
Approximately 150 community members and civic organization volunteers braved the rain Saturday to build a modern playground at The Boys and Girls Club of Blount County, located at 520 S. Washington Street, Maryville. KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America, created the playground piece by piece.
The event started at 8:30 a.m. with Missy Kane of Missy Kane’s Fit & Fun television fame leading the volunteers in a few exercises, according to Katrina Hill, KaBOOM! assistant project manager.
At 3:30 p.m., Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell cut the ribbon strung out across a group of volunteers to signify the completion of a special playground for the entire community. Mitchell had worked along with all the volunteers throughout the day.
Doug Haaland, Humana regional president, explained why the playground is unique.
Designed by kids
“The kids designed this one,” he said. “We met with (them) in July and they drew out what they would like to have on a playground. We told them that, even if they had never seen it on a playground, put it down anyway.”
KaBOOM! used the children’s drawings and created the structure to resemble them. On Saturday, the group, including representatives from Humana and KaBOOM!, used detailed diagrams to construct each playground piece.
Dale Henry, a Maryville Kiwanis member and volunteer, continually filled a wheelbarrow with stones from one side of the playground and moved them to where a group laid them on an incline near the end of the 50-by-50 foot area. Henry said she estimates 10 Kiwanis club members, including her husband, Bill, labored in the rain. Later, the Henrys laid stepping stones at one entrance to the larger play structure.
“We are excited that the Boys and Girls Club is getting a new playground and that it will have something for everyone, including me,” Henry added.
The playground is handicap-accessible, and multi-generational, meaning both adult and senior citizens can use the exercise stations along one side, according to Bill Kilgore, one of the county organizers. It also includes climbing walls and slides, cubbies for children’s belongings and a chalkboard, among other equipment.
Ashley Utely didn’t seem to mind the rain. It was her first time to volunteer with a non-profit agency. The Pellissippi State Community College elementary education student said she was excited because she was going get to drill holes for the adult picnic tables that will be on one side of the yard. She said she wanted to make sure the children at the club had a good playground. It’s important, she said, to give of herself to help other people.
April Overholt, a self-professed perpetual volunteer, said she felt excited Friday, as she anticipated taking a role in the playground construction. Her 11-year-old son participates in Boys and Girls Club activities, so she felt compelled to help.
“Last night, I felt like a kid getting ready to go on a field trip,” she said. “By volunteering, it shows compassion toward the children and others.”
KaBOOM! playgrounds take six hours to construct. Though now completed, area children will have to wait until Tuesday for the concrete to cure and the play structure to settle, according to Haaland.
The rain slowed production a little, Hill said. Plus it changed the way construction normally is done. For example, volunteers dumped dry cement into the holes for the structure’s supports, mixing it with the rainwater filling them. Then, they used a small hand pump to get rid of excess water. The cubbies had to be painted inside the building, and those putting together the fitness station worked under canopies.
The site needed to be prepped several days in advance, and Kilgore said he and a small group of volunteers worked four days prior to construction day. He said the group pulled out most of the old playground equipment, which he said were at least 50 to 60 years old, dug all the holes for the new pieces and cleaned up the area.
Prior to Saturday’s dedication, Hill remarked, “You are the most filthy volunteers I have ever seen.” She then thanked them for their hard work in inclement weather. She said not only did the group construct a large play structure, they also built eight benches, four children’s picnic tables, four adult picnic tables, a sand box, three fitness stations, and cubbies the children can use to stash their belongings in while playing. The teams of KaBOOM! and Humana understand the importance of active, outdoor play and exercise for both children and adults. The playgrounds fit that bill, while giving everyone in the county a place to make that happen. Haaland said Humana funds the unique playgrounds because exercise is good for both the mind and body, and the playgrounds provide a perfect place for both to happen.
He also said the project is one of more than 50 playgrounds funded and built by Humana, the Humana Foundation and KaBOOM! across the U.S. over four years.
After Saturday’s dedication, volunteers finished spreading mulch and checked to be sure everything is secure. There will be caution tape around the structure until Tuesday, when the children get to play on the structure. It was unclear whether the Boys and Girls Club will conduct a dedication ceremony that day.