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Volunteers Use Their Muscle to Build Dream Playground Designed by Kids

by on June 25, 2013 2:54 PM

What began as a collection of childrens' drawings is now a gleaming 2,500 square foot dream playground. More than 100 volunteers streamed into State College's Orchard Park Tuesday morning, determined to make this dream a reality.

“My kids loved to play on playgrounds when they were younger,” says Sue Traynor who came from Boalsburg to volunteer for the day.“This is my way of giving back to the community and making sure young children have a nice place to play just like my kids did.”

Jodie Ruediger, a volunteer who works for High Mark Blue Shield, spent the morning putting mulch around trees. Like most of the 130 volunteers, she started bright and early at 8:30 a.m.

“It’s nice to get out of the office for the day,” says Ruediger. “We thought this was a great project to participate in, and we're enjoying being a part of the mulch team.”

In addition to building the playground, volunteers also split up to work on other beautification projects including fixing up concrete and putting in benches and plants. 

“My friends and I even like to play on playgrounds, and we’re too big for them,” jokes Walker Mulley, a student at Hillsdale College. Mulley is working as an intern for the State College Borough this summer.

“I didn’t have to be outside here today, but I wanted to. I know the kids are going to love this playground."

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” says Lock Haven mayor and president of the Pennsylvania Municipal League Rick Vilello. “It’s great to leave a legacy here and have something standing for the kids.” The league is an advocacy group that represents municipalities across the state. Its members are in State College for the league's annual convention.

The playground was made possible by KaBOOM!, a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. that creates play areas for children. Other sponsors included the Borough of State College, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, High Mark Blue Shield, Centre Region Parks and Recreation, Shipley Energy, the PFM Group, and M&T Bank.

According to Courtney Hayden, the communications and special projects coordinator for the State College Borough, the Orchard Park location was chosen due to the high number of children and young families in the surrounding neighborhoods. The new playground is expected to accommodate 1,500 kids a year.

“This is a chance to help benefit a lot of kids and maybe some kids who are less fortunate,” says Hayden.

Hayden added that the old playground in the park will remain for another five years, but the new structure will feature equipment chosen by local YMCA kids following a day in April when children submitted design ideas.

“They wanted a slide that went 20 feet in the air. We can’t do that for safety reasons, but we gave them a slide 9-feet high. There’s tons of places to hide, and every inch of space is utilized. When kids go down a slide, they’ll immediately have something else waiting for them to play with. We made sure to provide plenty of climbing opportunities for them."

The playground includes five climbing structures, three slides, monkey bars, and tubes to crawl through. The color scheme, chosen by local children, combines orange and purple with a bit of green mixed in.

Hayden explained that a portion of the playground would be designed for children ages 2-5. The rest of the area would be for older kids ages 5-12.

Naudy Martinez, the project manager with KaBOOM! says that the playground will be finished this afternoon, but it likely will not be available for play until Friday.

“It takes three days for the cement to dry, but it will be worth the wait,” says Martinez. “These kids are getting a great place to play.

Watch our video of the playground construction in progress:

Photo Gallery - Orchard Park Playground

Drew Balis is a Penn State graduate, freelance reporter and frequent contributor to
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