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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Harrisburg to receive new playground, community involvement needed

  • Through the co-sponsorship of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois, the Harrisburg Park District and the Southern Illinois Community Foundation, Gaskins City Complex in Harrisburg will soon be receiving a new playground.
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  • Through the co-sponsorship of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois, the Harrisburg Park District and the Southern Illinois Community Foundation, Gaskins City Complex in Harrisburg will soon be receiving a new playground.
    KaBOOM, a New York-based company, designs the equipment and coordinates the community-wide building of the new playground.
    "This community has been through a lot over the past year," said KaBOOM project coordinator for the Harrisburg playground, Jen Leshnower. "This project will hopefully continue to strengthen the fabric of the community."
    KaBOOM provides the materials needed to build the playground, but volunteers from the community will be the ones actually building the structure. In addition, over the next seven weeks interested community members have the opportunity to be involved in the design and planning of the new playground.
    There are a variety of tasks to be completed before the build day, which will take place Sept. 22, rain or shine. With 200 volunteers, the playground can be constructed in only six hours on that day.
    Before build day, though, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, youth involvement, maintenance plans and logistics, among many other responsibilities, must be completed by members of the community.
    Leshnower said build day will be a "major community-wide event" that will include plenty of water, food and, of course, fun.
    KaBoom advocates a community effort in the building of the playground and Leshnower says there is a role for everyone.
    "On build day there will be a task for everyone," said Leshnower. "We really do want this to be a community event."
    The initial meeting to discuss the new playground was held at the Harrisburg Park District Office Thursday and was well-attended. Community members who came to the event began the process of assigning tasks and even looked at design ideas and colors for the playground. The meeting began by allowing the true playground experts, children, draw a picture of what their ideal playground would look like. Next, attendees began the process of choosing playground equipment and possible colors.
    "Your playground is going to be unique to your community," Leshnower said.
    She went on to say that the playground should reflect the talents and gifts of individuals in the community, as well as the area's history. One design possibility is a nature theme.
    "Everybody contributes their piece of the puzzle," she said.
    Part of the theory behind KaBOOM's way of doing things is their belief that the process of organizing a community-built playground is just as important as the actual structure. Because of this, they encourage all members of the community to get involved with the project any way they can. They believe everyone has a role in building the playground, whether it's being involved in planning, donating funds, participating in the actual construction of the site or even simply lending building materials like hammers and drills for the build day.
    Page 2 of 2 - Mike Williams, park commissioner and Kiwanis member, said the Kiwanis have already agreed to hydrate and feed the many community volunteers who are expected to turn up for build day, which will begin around 8:30 a.m. and should be completed by 2:30 p.m. Sept. 22.
    "We're all going to bring something to the table," Leshnower said, adding that they need volunteers of all kinds in order to have a successful build day.
    She even encouraged musicians or disc jockeys interested in volunteering on build day to help improve morale as the playground is constructed. Leshnower said it is especially important for children to be involved in build day, because it will give them a sense of pride to get to play on a structure they helped build themselves.
    "We're asking kids to be really involved in the community," she said.
    Ron Emery, Executive Director of the Harrisburg Park District, said he jumped at the opportunity to dedicate some space at the Gaskins City complex for the playground. He hopes to see the complex expand beyond just baseball fields and be utilized by families and children, encouraging them to get outdoors and live healthier lifestyles. The playground will be located between the parking lot and the baseball fields where there was once a small playground that has since been torn down.
    KaBOOM has partnered with co-sponsors Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois and the Southern Illinois Community Foundation, who have agreed to help fund the project, in addition to recruiting volunteers. Both groups were excited about the plans for the new playground.
    "We're thrilled about our partnership to help the community," said SICF Board President Larry Busch.
    However, donations and volunteers of all kinds are still needed to ensure the playground is completed as planned.
    For more information on how to get involved in this community-wide event, contact Emery at the Harrisburg Park District at (618) 252-2111.
    In addition, Busch said SICF is currently seeking donations for the KaBOOM project, which is a subset of their ongoing work with tornado relief. Tax-deductible donations can be sent by check to the Southern Illinois Community Foundation at 3000 W. DeYoung St., Suite 800B, Marion, 62459.
    The next meeting regarding the KaBOOM community playground project will be 10 a.m. Aug. 7 at the Harrisburg Park District Office.
    • Stewart receives email at cstewart@dailyregister.com

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