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Elbow grease paves way for child’s play in King George

A group of sailors and parents have updated the well-worn playground at Potomac Elementary School in Dahlgren with shiny-new modern equipment during a community build.

The school’s Parent–Teacher Association donated the playground equipment.

The project was completed ahead of schedule on Friday, thanks to help from about 40 active-duty sailors from the nearby Navy base, said Clifford Kelley, a senior chief petty officer and the PTA treasurer.

Michael Wardman, who has a rising fifth-grader at the school, said volunteers would have worked for several weekends if it hadn’t been for the sailors.

“It really couldn’t have been done without them,” he said. “It was such a huge help.”

In all, close to 50 volunteers set up the playground on Friday, Kelley said. A smaller group of mostly PTA members and the playground contractors came on Thursday to get everything in place.

More volunteers will be needed to add mulch when that is delivered.

Mike White, a member of the PTA’s playground committee, attended Potomac Elementary School and has two sons there now.

“They were pretty excited and glad to see it happen,” White said of his sons.

It was time for a new playground.

“[We’re] trying to have something that challenges a wide variety of kids and something that interests them to the point where they want to get out and get physical activity and play on it,” White said.

He was impressed by the volunteer effort.

“I’ve participated in community builds before and I’ve never seen anything like this—the amount of help that we got from the sailors,” he said.

Chief Petty Officer Chuck Walker doesn’t have any kids at the school but volunteered because it’s good for the community, he said.

“I know they appreciate it,” he said.

He worked on assembling the playground, dug post holes, helped build the barrier surrounding the playground that will hold mulch and put mulch down around the older play equipment.

Fire Controlman Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Teem also volunteered. His children attend school on the base.

“They love playing on playgrounds, so why not build a playground for other kids,” Teem said.

One of the things he worked on was the rock-climbing wall, he said. It fit together like a puzzle.

“It was a lot of fun to put together,” Teem said. “It was definitely worth the time off work to come out here and help out.”

Principal Angie Harris said a new playground has been on the students’ wish list and it will help them hone their abilities in a fun way, she said. The jungle gym helps kids develop upper-body strength and the stepping stones increase depth perception.

“There’s a lot you can do with this playground,” Harris said.

The PTA announced in May that it raised $37,000 to pay for the playground. Kelley said they put several thousand dollars more into the project so that the playground contractors could come and make sure everything was put in correctly and was safe for the children.

They saved about $10,000 by having volunteers do the actual construction.

Everyone in the community has played a part in the fundraising effort, Harris said. They’ve received support from local businesses.

White said the PTA raised most of the funds for the playground through Boosterthon Fun Run events two consecutive years. He hopes the kids who worked hard to raise pledges and run laps are proud of their efforts.

“We had one small little piece—to just put it together,” he said. “But each kid in the school that participated in that fundraiser and worked to get pledges should be proud when they come here in the fall and see what their hard work produced.”

Sara Backstrom is a freelance writer. She may be reached at localnews@freelancestar.com.

 

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