PCES awarded new playground
PHIL CAMPBELL – The landscape in the tornado-ravaged town of Phil Campbell has made vast improvements since the 210 mph winds tore a path of destruction through the area on April 27, but this Saturday, the landscape at Phil Campbell Elementary School will really transform as their new, state-of-the-art playground is constructed in just one day.
The playground, made possible through the non-profit organization KaBOOM! and the Disney Magic of Healthy Living program, will replace the old playground at PCES that was severely damaged by the EF-5 tornado that killed 26 people in the county including PCES second-grade teacher Patricia Gentry, fourth-grader Ethan Knox and third-grader Edgar Mojica – the ones for whom the “Gentry-Knox-Mojica Playground” was dedicated at a special ceremony on August 4.
Planning for the actual playground began at a Design Day event held in October when local children and community leaders met with organizers from Disney and KaBOOM! to design their dream playground. The children’s drawings were then used to create the final playground design.
“The new playground is going to be such a positive stepping stone for the students at Phil Campbell Elementary School,” principal Jackie Ergle said.
“Each day as they ride in buses or cars, so many reminders of the tornado are still evident. The playground will play a major role in helping children to cope with the horrific experiences of the storm on April 27.”
Officials with KaBOOM! said the construction of the playground will only take one day with the help of more than 200 PCES volunteers, KaBOOM! organizers and local community members who will gather for a kickoff ceremony at 8:30 a.m. and finish the project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2:30 p.m.
“It is absolutely critical for children to have an emotional outlet in a time of tragedy and there is no substitute for a great playground,” said Darell Hammond, KaBOOM! Founder and CEO. “Every child deserves to have a great place to play and I’m proud that Disney and KaBOOM! are joining together with the community to build the children of Phil Campbell a terrific new playground.”
Disney contributed more than $1 million in 2011 to help KaBOOM! build playgrounds and learning gardens in 14 communities across the U.S. These play spaces are part of Disney Magic of Healthy Living, a multimedia initiative designed to partner with parents in their quest to raise healthy, happy families and inspire kids to make lifestyle choices that are good for you and fun too.
“Supporting KaBOOM! in their mission to build a place to play within walking distance of every child is an important part of Disney’s commitment to make healthy living fun,” said Leslie Goodman, Senior Vice President of Disney Corporate Citizenship. “We are delighted to be working together to bring laughter and joy to kids and families in the Phil Campbell community at a time of great need.”
Officials said the playground area, which will benefit over 450 children in the town, will include a vegetable garden so children can learn first-hand about growing and eating nutritious food.
In addition to the community-built playground and learning garden, the new play area will also include Imagination Playground in a Box, which is a breakthrough concept designed by architect David Rockwell to encourage child-directed, unstructured free play with manipulable loose parts that allow children to design their own course of play.
“Each day the students will have something to look forward to – swings, slides, zip lines and an entire Imagination Playground,” Ergle said. “The laughter and energy will be an outlet for them to experience joy which will be therapeutic mentally and physically which is what they need at this time. Memories created on our new playground will be treasured for generations to come.”