Volunteers grant playground wish
By Beckye Randall
More than 200 volunteers showed up on a drizzly Tuesday morning to help fulfill the dreams of local children.
In cooperation with KaBoom!, the Home Depot and the NFL, community members worked together throughout the day on Tuesday, November 11, to build a bright blue and green playground at the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club.
"We dreamed of this six years ago, but didn't know how we could make it happen," said Vicki Hill, unit director of the local club. "It's a miracle, because they [KaBoom!] chose us. It's a blessing for our children."
KaBoom! is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to build a playground within walking distance of every child in America. The Home Depot is the nonprofit's founding partner, and volunteers from the home improvement chain were out in force at the Veterans Day build. Seahawks player Bobby Engram, the 2008 recipient of the Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP Award, also contributed his labor to the project and signed autographs for grateful fans.
According to Natalie Proffit, KaBoom!'s liaison for the local project, the November 11 event drew 115 Home Depot volunteers, 90 community members, and 30 helpers under the age of 18.
"It's an amazing build, especially considering the conditions," said Proffit about halfway through the day. "The mud has been a challenge, but we're actually ahead of schedule."
The playground area is on a level area near Marine Drive. To reach it, volunteers had to maneuver wheelbarrows and tarps filled with cedar chips up a slippery incline. About midday, Proffit called on workers to break up some hay bales and spread straw on the muddy hill to prevent accidents.
Tulalip tribal member Chris Enick was happy to lend a hand. "I grew up here, coming to this club," he said as he stirred a wheelbarrow full of concrete. "This is a great opportunity to say thanks."
Six Tulalip Bay firefighters were pitching in too, their recently shaved heads glistening in the fine mist. Donnie Rooks said the department put on three extra people specifically to help with the project, and three others were on call while working at the playground site.
"It's nice to get out in the community and do something for kids," said Rooks. "This will be here for years and years, a real benefit for the community."
From his perch on top of the massive climbing and sliding toy, Tulalip Elementary parent Chuck Miller added, "Our kids all play here after school. I can't wait to see this playground filled with laughing children."
A number of those children were on hand to greet Seahawks player Bobby Engram. Engram helped assemble some picnic tables, then was assigned to the installation of a "rock" wall on the playground. In the day's only noticeable glitch, the rock wall piece had been pre-assembled incorrectly and had to be taken apart. Engram was a good sport as he and other volunteers unscrewed all the bolts holding the frame in place, then turned the climbing surface and reassembled the toy.
"This project is a symbol of so many messages to share," said Engram. "It will help these kids learn to respect themselves and others, and show them the value of service to their community. I'm grateful for this opportunity to give back to the community in a positive and meaningful way."
Engram was honored by The Home Depot for his efforts on behalf of the Bobby Engram Foundation, which helps educate parents and caregivers about sickle cell anemia. Engram's daughter Bobbi has the incurable disease, which causes severe bouts of pain. The foundation is especially geared toward helping underprivileged children diagnosed with the disease.
Ken Kettler was among the volunteers trudging through the mud during the day. The president and chief operating officer of the Tulalip Gaming Organization is accustomed to drier working conditions, but he was enjoying the challenge. He volunteered for the project along with fellow members of the new Tulalip Lions Club.
"This morning the place was a mudhole," he said. A foot-thick layer of cedar chips on the playground surface helped dry up the area.
Although the skies were cloudy all day, the predicted downpour held off while work was underway at the club. "The Lord is blessing us," said Vicki Hill. "He's just sending a refreshing mist to keep us from getting too hot as we work."
"It's a miracle," she repeated fervently.