Building up a community starts with boosting up its children. Outside our main offices we were always seeing young children walking up and down the street, most of the time with no obvious destination. After a little research we discovered, there was little nothing for them to do in our small town. The only playground was located at the elementary school and was badly in need of repair. The local park had no playground equipment to speak of, only a baseball diamond and basketball court.
One thing the town had an abundance of was young children, most of them with nothing better to do than attempt to stay out of trouble. We put a few of our family oriented employees together and decided to work on an idea. We had many parents on staff who were active in school supported athletic events because their children were players.
We decided to start a fitness program for the children of our community. There was a large vacant lot next to our building. After a few questions and an impromptu meeting with a local realtor, we found the property was for sale. Within a few days it was ours and we began to figure out how we could make good use of the property.
With the purchase of the land, we now had enough room to try and entice the local kids into building a place where they could play and participate in athletic activities. We began talking to them and asking what they would like to have available to them. Within a few weeks, the idea for a playground was conceived. It wouldn’t be just any playground. It would have pieces of equipment that encourage dexterity and physical fitness.
A “log roller”, balance beam, climbing rock and pull up bar were included. We also put in a batting and pitching cage for the kids who enjoyed baseball. We paid members of our staff over time pay if they would each take turns supervising the “fitness center” for two or three hours a day. Within a month of the playground portion of the property being completed, we had an overflow of people who were willing to spend their time with the kids.
The neighborhood kids amazed us as well. No longer did they wander aimlessly through the neighborhood. They would come running to spend time at the facility. Many times, they would ask if there was anything they could do to help with the next stage of the property. They gave us new ideas about different things we could add to make the property more kid friendly and athletically motivated.
We added a snack machines full of nutritious granola bars and juice boxes. The lot was large enough for a modestly sized athletic field with a surrounding track. Our employees and their kids began to put together leagues for soccer, baseball, swim meets and flag football. The neighborhood kids began to bring their siblings and friends to the field for a chance to play.
It is truly amazing when you start a small project for a few underprivileged kids and end up having the entire community rally behind you. We planted a small seed that has grown into city wide project for every child.