Volunteers come together to build new playground in Aurora
By David Sharos For Sun-Times Media October 13, 2013 8:52PM
Matt Breslin, a volunteer from SAP in Downers Grove, helps assemble a pergola on the playground Friday at Hall Elementary School in Aurora. Hundreds of volunteers gathered to build outdoor teaching areas and new playground equipement designed with input from students and parents. | Mary Beth Nolan/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 15, 2013 6:16AM
The area outside Hall Elementary School in Aurora was busier than usual Friday morning as more than 300 volunteers gathered in the cool fall air to help rebuild the playground area at the school.
The $10,000 rehab project was launched with the help of Kaboom! — a national playground building program that has produced more than 2,300 other such projects across the country that project manager Teresa Crippen said are all one-of-a-kind creations.
“We met with the school after they worked with students and teachers and parents about how they wanted the project to look, what equipment would be installed, and even what colors would be used,” Crippen said as she kept her charges moving throughout the day. “We’ve built 175 of these projects already this year, and this one represents about an eight-week planning process.”
Volunteers began assembling as early as 6:30 a.m. for the work. A ribbon cutting for the new playground, which included various pieces of apparatus, a shelter area, benches and more was at 2:30 p.m.
Leigh Jackson, who works for the West Aurora School District 129 operations department, said kids at the school were “very excited about the project.”
“There was a rally before school and the kids came out one class at a time to see the progress,” Jackson said. “They are so happy that so many people have come out to do something for them.”
Crippen said a total of two 18-wheeler trucks’ full of playground mulch was dumped off at the site, along with 450 bags of concrete mix that each held 80 pounds of material. The mulch was moved using wheelbarrows, and the mountain was disappearing quickly.
“We have enough mulch here to cover 1½ full-size basketball courts 12 inches deep with material,” she said.
A large portion of the work was done by volunteers from various Hewlett-Packard Chicago area locations and SAP Americas, a software firm. Food to feed the army of workers was provided by more than 15 area vendors and grocery stores.
Workers took lunch breaks as Crippen called out groups to rotate in and out. President of the school’s PTA Karrie Kyle-Huberty said she has twins at the school and that they and their friends are looking forward to having a newer, safer play area.
“The equipment here was over 20 years old and was in bad shape,” she said. “The kids got a chance to be involved in the design and the colors and they really love it. I can’t wait to see the look on their faces today when it’s done.”
School librarian Lori Jones said she was head of the construction committee for the project and that she helped coordinate tool donations which came from the community.
“We have a total of 30 metal rakes, 30 shovels, 20 wheelbarrows and various electric and cordless drills,” she said. “We also have many feet of hoses that were donated for mixing water with the concrete. People have been wonderful about letting us use their equipment to get this project done.”
Jones also praised the organization of the Kaboom! Group which helped make the construction project much simpler.
“On our prep day a few days ago, we counted out bolts and labeled all the equipment and put things in buckets,” she said. “This may look like chaos, but it’s extremely well organized, and even people without experience are able to get things done efficiently.”
Marianne Longo, vice president of the PTA, said that the group nearly disbanded a year ago, but new members came forward so that now both the school’s PTA and its playground “are experiencing a rebirth.”
“We all came together over this project thanks to a bunch of other crazy people like us,” Longo said. “There was fund raising with pencil grams, and we held a 5K race. Our fundraisers were successful and to see all of this now is amazing.”