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Zulema Rodriguez pulls her great-grandson, Mike, into the shade. At two o’clock in the afternoon, the South Texas summer sun is, not surprisingly, a blazingly hot 95 degrees. Disco music blares from a nearby DJ station as people, nearly 300 of them, mill about, shoveling mulch, mixing concrete, and assembling playground equipment. They’re working much faster and harder than the heat should allow. But a sense of energy and urgency fills the air. Today is Build Day. And it’s almost time for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“I’ve lived here, in my apartment, for 41 years,” Zulema tells me. “Raised four kids here. They all graduated from Lee High School!” she proudly proclaims. But today, the apple of her eye stands right beside her: Mike, her great-grandson. She’s thrilled he’ll soon get to play on this brand new playground thanks to Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s Let’s Play initiative. Let’s Play, along with partners KaBOOM! and Prospera Housing Community Services, provided the tools, inspiration, and volunteers to build the playground which will help make active play a daily priority in the lives of these San Antonio kids.
“We went to the design meeting. After living here for so long, I knew just how badly a new, safer playground was needed. The kids from the neighborhood picked the equipment. The adults helped choose the colors. And,” Zulema leans in conspiratorially, “we also said no to swings. They break and can be dangerous.”
“I love the monkey bars,” Mike confesses to me shyly, his long eyelashes blinking quickly as he looks, eagerly, over the playground in progress.
Volunteers, including members of the U.S. Military, staff from Dr Pepper Snapple Group, staff from Prospera Housing, and other members of the community, gathered at 8:00 a.m. on June 15 to meet with KaBOOM! project manager, Katie Applebaum.
They received their marching orders and began assembling the all-new playground equipment, designed and selected by the neighborhood kids. The super dome was the toughest to build but thanks to some clever tricks from Prospera Housing’s Board Chairman Darrell Denning, it was soon complete and on its way to its new home in the mulch.
Six palettes of concrete were mixed and 135 cubic yards of mulch were shoveled, moved, and evenly distributed over the new play area. If you’re not exactly sure how much mulch that is, it’s a LOT. The mulch was delivered in two, eighteen-wheeler trucks. Six-and-a-half hours after volunteers arrived on the scene, the playground was complete!
The kids from the neighborhood, excited to see their designs come to life, sat on the sidelines during most of the day (as a safety precaution!). They drew thank you cards for the volunteers and enjoyed pizza and fruit for lunch. And they asked, every few minutes, when the playground would be ready.
In addition to new climbing and play structures, the revitalized playground now has new trash and recycling receptacles, as well as a bike rack.
When the big moment finally arrived, the volunteers gathered together to cut the ribbon on San Antonio’s newest playground.
The difference between the old playground and the new one is astonishing! And, it’s tough to believe that the new playground was built and finished in less than a day. Dr Pepper Snapple Group, KaBOOM!, and Prospera Housing don’t mess around, y’all. Through careful planning, community involvement from the beginning, and getting the kids engaged in what their new play area would look like, they all came together to make this dream come true.
Head on over to Let’s Play.com for play ideas and other builds Dr Pepper Snapple Group has been a part of.
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