published: Friday, March 15, 2013
Volunteers plan to build playground in 6 hours
ROXANNE BROWN | Staff Writer
In two months, as many as 300 volunteers will gather on a grassy lot at West Park Beach in Clermont and transform it into something every kid in town will want to visit -- all in six hours.
It's all thanks to the Boys and Girls Club, in conjunction with the city of Clermont, which secured a grant through KaBOOM, a national organization that brings community organizations and volunteers together to build safe playgrounds.
Clermont donated the property.
"The Boys and Girls Club came to us and made us aware of this opportunity and we wrote up the grant request. We are so excited, it was something we couldn't pass up," Clermont Recreation Director Dave Teske said.
Funding is secured by KaBOOM using major corporations wishing to help with the projects.
KaBOOM involves the community from start to finish, gathering ideas from local children and educators on what they'd like to see in their playground. It then takes the input back to its designers to map it out and get it built.
In this case, Disney agreed to fund the project under the umbrella of a "healthy living" initiative, minus 10 percent of the cost -- or about $8,500 -- which will be covered by the city and the Boys and Girls Club through donations and future fundraisers.
What the community will get in return is a state-of-the art-playground facility and a nature-inspired natural learning center from Nature Explore, an organization which is part of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, who has also jumped on board the project with KaBOOM for the first time.
"We work around the country with different community organizations that share a passion for making sure their kids have a safe place to play," said KaBOOM Project Management member Kathryn Lusk, saying that in 17 years, KaBOOM has built 2,200 playgrounds for various organizations across the country.
"We work with parents and children from beginning to end to make sure they have their dream playground. We involve them in every step; the design, planning and building, which ends up giving them a sense of ownership in the long run."
Earlier this week, KaBOOM and Nature Explorer spent two days in town for the planning and preliminary design phases of the project.
KaBOOM Project Manager Evan Mynatt and his crew, along with members of Nature Explore, met with representatives of the city and the club to work out details for construction day. He was impressed with the site selection.
"It's incredible. It's beautiful. I think anytime you can incorporate a play space with such natural beauty, and integrate the two aspects to make it work, that's your magic sauce right there, Mynatt said.
He also met with children, parents and educators from the club and a couple of local schools to determine what sort of playground equipment, color schemes and nature-related items children wanted in the future play space.
Heard were ideas of every kind -- from zip lines, rock climbing walls, twirly slides, swings, see-saws and basketball courts to watchtowers, underground secret tunnels, trampolines and swimming pools.
Julie Rose of Nature Explore said she was touched by how much the children seemed to want to learn more about nature and the outdoors. She was impressed because she said the children of today seem to spend far less time outside than children of years ago.
"When children are playing outside, they are connecting with the benefits of nature, but the problem is that in this day and age, we have nature deficit children," Rose said. "Who's doing the learning here? Is it video games and televisions or is it the children?"
"We have to get children interested in becoming the creators of their own environment again. We have to figure out how we can start developing the seeds for children who love the earth."
Adaijah Jackson, 13, a member of the Boys and Girls Club whose suggestions included ziplines from one tower to another, said she cannot believe the playground will be built in six hours.
Her brother, A.J. Jackson, 8, said he hopes his wish for a tree house will be included in the final design.
"This process has been great and I think in the end, we're going to end up with a place for kids to grow, play and learn and one that will empower them for a great future," Lake and Sumter Boys and Girls Club Operations Director Robb Elmatti said.
The playground will
be built in six hours and will be ready for play on May 7.
"Rain or shine, we'll be out there," Mynatt said.