One corner of the YMCA parking lot in Lakewood is now a children’s playground, thanks to more than 200 volunteers who spent Saturday mixing cement, hauling beauty bark, and assembling teeter-totters and monkey bars.
The volunteers, who included people from church groups and service organizations and a small contingent from the National Guard, worked through intermittent rain that at times was so heavy those mixing concrete barely had to add water.
Shortly after 2 p.m., Bob Ecklund, president and CEO of the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties, congratulated the volunteers on a job well done. “We want to have a safe place for every child in the community,” he told them.
The best place for play is outside, Ecklund said, “not playing video games or watching TV.”
The playground, at 9715 Lakewood Drive SW, was funded in part by the YMCA and in part by Disney Club Penguin. They worked in conjunction with KaBoom, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing active play areas for kids around the country, particularly those in low-income areas.
Clayton DeNault, executive director of the Lakewood Family YMCA, said the need for safe, outdoor playgrounds in central Lakewood is high.
“Where do I begin?” DeNault said. “We have 4,500 kids between the ages of 2 and 10 whose families are members, and many of them have nowhere else to go. They spend hours here every day. They’re really counting on us for everything.”
The new playground will be open to all children, not just YMCA members, DeNault said, and he expects it to be used by families who live at the many multi-unit apartment buildings in the area.
The Lakewood Y has a high percentage of children from low-income families and many with developmental issues, added Jesse Palmer, the YMCA grants director who successfully arranged the deal with Disney and KaBoom.
Access to outside play is critical for them, Palmer said.
“The (play area) idea was really getting the kids outdoors and running around and developing motor skills,” he said.
The social interaction on playgrounds is important, too, Palmer said.
“That’s how I met my friends when I was a kid,” he said. “On the playground.”