Elementary school gets new playground with the help of NFL players
This school year when the kids at Drew Elementary School in West Philadelphia, PA play on their new playground, they’ll recall a day over the summer when some of their sports heroes took a personal interest in them and in their school.
Until recently, the students at Drew Elementary didn’t have a lot of outdoor play options. In fact, teachers and administrators began noticing increased levels of violence in the schoolyard during recess and knew they had to do something.
They began talking with the students to find a solution to this problem. What they learned was that the students wanted a playground—something that was missing at the school. The question then became: where could the school find the funds to support such an endeavor? With a little community outreach, they found the answer in their own backyard—and it came in the form of the Philadelphia Eagles organization.
This past June, the Eagles Youth Partnership, the Philadelphia Eagles’ charitable wing, arrived at Drew Elementary with a $75,000 contribution and lots of manpower.
“They have no playground here, just asphalt. That’s all they can play on,” said Tight End Chad Lewis. “So we’re putting in a whole new playground.”
Working side by side with third, fourth and fifth graders, Eagles players, coaches, management and staff helped the school transform the unattractive, hard asphalt area into the new, eye-catching Drew Eagles Friendship Play-ground.
Players and staffers hauled wheelbarrows full of dug-up concrete, assembled playground equipment, planted trees and put their creativity to work through painted murals and other arts and crafts. The kids enjoyed posing for photos and collecting autographs.
Down and Dirty. Donovan McNabb is used to putting on the green on Sundays but was more than happy to put on a little green paint for a good cause.
“The players and staff members really enjoy our annual day of service,” said Eagles President and CEO Jeffrey Lurie. When the project has been completed they can step back, take it all in, and realize that they have made a difference, that they’ve made life a little bit better for so many youngsters.”
Lurie said the players realize that they have given a full day’s worth of effort and, in the end, created a facility that will be shared and enjoyed by youngsters for years and years to come.
I think the Eagles do more community service than any team in the NFL and I’m proud of that,” added Lewis. “I love it that we get in with the community.”
Not forgetting that the playground was the idea of the students, teachers worked to keep them involved in the planning process by incorporating the project into the classroom curriculum. In the process, they sharpened their students’ skills in math, reading, research, writing, design and computer literacy.
The new playground, manufactured by Playworld Systems, encompasses more than 1,600 square feet and provides challenging play for 75 supervised children age five to 12. Containing many fun elements, the playground features a double slide, a spiral slide, two climbers, and several balance components. “Hands” icons appear on the playground’s post caps and roof, and another panel showcases the silhouette of a city line. Custom-lettered benches display the words kindness, cooperation, and unity—words chosen by the students to represent the message of friendship. The benches, located next to the playground, provide an area of rest for playground supervisors while newly planted trees provide shade and add to the overall aesthetics of the area. Because the playground is located directly behind the school, the back wall of the school building provides a large canvas to display a colorful mural and other works of art.
Coach of the Year. Andy Reid coached the Eagles to the NFC championship last year, but to the children of Drew Elementary, his work on their playground is what makes him a real hero.
Playworld Systems, based in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, was one of the partners in this public/private partnership. In fact, many members from George Ely Associates, the local sales representative for Playworld Systems, donated their time and expertise for supervision and construction assistance during the installation.
“We all had a good time building the playground,” said Sean Plank of George Ely Associates. “It was a very rewarding experience for everyone involved.”
Since 1997, the Eagles Youth Partnership has been helping community children and adults renovate city parks and playgrounds in their neighborhoods. The Drew Eagles Friendship Playground was their sixth annual project. Turner Construction, Center for Community Partnerships, Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, Network Arts, UCGreen, and Urban Nutrition also donated time, materials and services for the building project.