Puyallup: Sumner

Sumner, Bonney Lake communities unite to build playhouse for Prairie Ridge

Kimberly Caldwell, Prairie Ridge Community Coalition leader, left, and Sue Z. Hart, founder and CEO of Building Beyond the Walls, stand inside the playhouse given to the Prairie Ridge Community Coalition to put in Grandpa Lou’s Play Yard.
Kimberly Caldwell, Prairie Ridge Community Coalition leader, left, and Sue Z. Hart, founder and CEO of Building Beyond the Walls, stand inside the playhouse given to the Prairie Ridge Community Coalition to put in Grandpa Lou’s Play Yard. jbessex@gateline.com

There are some projects that require a lot of community effort.

That was certainly true of the Prairie Ridge community’s new wheelchair accessible playhouse, which services children in the neighboring area at Grandpa Lou’s Play Yard on 14104 Prairie Ridge Dr. E in Bonney Lake.

The coalition enlisted the help of Building Beyond the Walls, a program founded by Sue Hart that provides hands-on residential construction training to volunteers who in turn build structures to be used within the community.

Hart, who resides in Buckley, had worked with the Prairie Ridge Community Coalition the year before on a different project.

“I was looking for a project and it started because of the storage shed that we did for them last year,” Hart said. “Then they said that they’d like to have a playhouse for Grandpa Lou’s Play Yard. It’s a playground designed specifically for young children.”

In the spring of 2015, the coalition started raising funds for the playhouse. Every week, Kimberly Caldwell, leader of the coalition, and her predecessor, Monica Gaub, held raffles to raise money. That wasn’t including the bake sales, rummage sales and a pancake breakfast they hosted.

The pair continued like this for a year, raising the money needed for supplies and labor. In spring 2016, a helping hand gave them a big donation toward their goal.

“Sumner Rotary found out what (the coalition) was doing,” Hart said.

That Rotary member was Barbara Bitetto.

“To me it sounded like it was going to take a long time to make (the playhouse) happen,” Bitetto said.

So Bitetto went to Sumner Rotary for help, and in April, Hart attended a meeting and presented to the members. Sumner Rotary then donated $3,400 to the effort.

“Instead of kids playing in the parking lot, they have a playhouse,” said Bitetto, adding that while Rotary helps efforts around the world, sometimes there are “needs in our community that need to be addressed.”

“They needed our support,” added Jerry Vandenberg, another member of Sumner Rotary who also is on Building Beyond the Wall’s board. Vandenberg helped moved the storage shed the program completed the year before.

The coalition reached $6,500 to build the playhouse and started construction in September 2016.

“It ended up being more than eight weeks because we had some unique features in it,” Hart said. “We finished the inside of all the walls and we did a vaulted ceiling which allowed us to put a motion-activated, solar-powered light.”

The playhouse also features a vaulted roof out of reach to be tampered with, and the windows lack glass for public safety.

The structure was completed at the Enumclaw Expo Center, which donated the space, and was then moved to Prairie Ridge on Dec. 2. A pre-dedication celebration was held Dec. 10.

But the design is not quite complete. Hart, Caldwell and Gaub plan to have children paint flowers on the front of the structure and to “bring the outside in” with a tree and picnic table inside. The dedication is planned for the spring.

Grandpa Lou’s Play Yard is a fenced-in structure that sits next to a community building where Lake Tapps Christian Church preschool is held, and those children get to use the playhouse as well.

The accessibility of the playhouse is important to the Prairie Ridge community, said Gaub, who has been involved in area for years.

“If you look around, there are a lot of houses with ramps,” she said.

For Hart, the playhouse is a testament to what can be done when community comes together.

“I love the serendipity of how everything comes together,” she said. “It’s really exciting when I sit down and think of all the organizations that have been involved — it’s been amazing.”

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