Numerous parents, staff members and students past and present braved the scorching heat and threats of rain to build something of critical importance: a new playground for Wetzel Road Elementary. Volunteers gathered at the school on Wetzel Road in Clay from morning until dusk Friday Aug. 3 and Saturday Aug. 4 to help put up the structure.
“We’ve been talking about it for a number of years,” said Kim Canino, a member of the school’s parent-teacher organization and part of the playground committee. “We had done fundraisers and all that, but we never got the school community together to actually build the playground.”
The project stalled for some time. But this year, with the aid of new PTO officers and an influx of funds, coupled with the growing deterioration of the existing playground, it finally got off the ground. The first phase of the playground was completed that Saturday through the combined efforts of the parent volunteers and Park and Play Installations, a construction company who helped to install the playground.
“We rely on the parent volunteers,” Canino said. “There are only three crew members here from Park and Play. The rest are volunteers.”
And there were certainly plenty of volunteers.
“The turnout was phenomenal,” Canino said. “We much more support than we expected. Without them, forget it. It was just unbelievable.”
The entire effort was grassroots, Canino said. The design, created by Miracle Equipment Inc., was selected by the playground committee after PTO President Jim Eichholzer surveyed the kids to find out what they wanted.
“He went around and he watched the kids on [the old playground],” Canino said, “and when he spoke to them, all of the kids wanted something to climb on. So we tweaked the design a little — added the rock walls.”
The new construction is a vast improvement over the old playground, Principal Brenda Zavaski said.
“Really, all that existed there were a few beams, tires and chains,” Zavaski said. “There was nothing that was exciting for the kids. We were looking to get the kids active. We’ve been behind the times on that. And safety was an issue. The time had just come for a new playground.”
If the number of children present at the site on construction days was any indication, the kids were excited about the prospect, as well. Canino said she thought the fact that it was a volunteer-driven effort increased the students’ pride in the playground.
“It makes them appreciate it that much more,” she said. “I think it’s good for kids early in life to volunteer for something and see how good it makes them feel. And when they look at this playground, they’ll be able to do that. They’ll know that they had a hand in building it, that their parents had a hand in building it. It makes them proud.”
MRE’s playground to go up this weekend
Wetzel Road Elementary has a nice new playground, and Morgan Road is next.
Principal Fred Fowler said the school will begin construction of the new playground this weekend, Aug. 17 and 18.
“It’s all volunteers,” Fowler said. “We’ll have two workers from Miracle [Equipment, the company that designed the playground] plus all of our volunteers.”
Fowler said HSBC will present a check to the school Wednesday for the work.
Fowler said Morgan’s playground had become a safety hazard and needed to be updated.
Anyone interested in volunteering or helping out can contact Morgan Road Elementary at 453-1268.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.