By SHERI GASSAWAY
About 40 police officers and community members teamed up with Play 4 All and the City of Ferguson Sept. 29 with the hefty goal of building a state-of-the-art playground in just six hours.
The playground’s dimensions were spray-painted on the field and holes for the equipment were dug out before volunteers arrived at the Ferguson Community Center at 1050 Smith Ave. The group listened intently as organizers explained how the tasks would be completed.
The feat was accomplished, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the generous donations of more than $30,000 from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodges 15, 68 and 111 and the Shield of Hope, the charitable arm of the Eastern Missouri Coalition of Police, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 15.
“Law enforcement officers from the Ferguson, St. Louis County, St. Louis City and other area police departments that responded to the unrest in Ferguson two years ago want the community to see that we are invested in turning the page on a difficult chapter in history,” said Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association.
HEALING COMMUNITIES THROUGH PLAY
The Ferguson playground was part of a new initiative by Play 4 All called Healing Communities Through Play. It focuses on bringing police, city officials, residents and youth together to cooperatively build play and fitness spaces to benefit the entire community.
Organizers chose Ferguson for its pilot program in an effort to strengthen the community that two years ago was thrust into international headlines as being divided and “at war with police.” Victoria Schmitt Babb, Play 4 All’s St. Louis area community resource manager, came up with the idea.
“Play speaks to our universal humanity,” Babb said. “It is something that unifies rather than divides us. Every community needs to be reminded about the common bonds that connect us and every child needs to play.”
City officials were grateful for the opportunity and the assistance provided from the police and the community.
“We are appreciative of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodges and Shield of Hope by the generous donations from both organizations,” said Ferguson City Manager De’Carlon Seewood. “The playground will allow the youth in Ferguson to be a kid and enjoy playing with their friends in a new state-of-the-art playground set.”
Mayor James Knowles, III, agreed and added, “This project is a symbol of our police officers showing that they really do care about the communities in which they serve.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Play 4 All initiative is a collective effort guided by Cunningham Recreation, a North Carolina, family-owned recreation company. For more information on the initiative, visit Play 4 All Campaign on Facebook, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 438-2780, ext. 139.