by Elaine D. Briseño
The gymnasium inside the Rio Rancho Boys & Girls Club was uncomfortably warm late Tuesday afternoon, but the 40 or so children inside hardly seemed to notice.
Instead, they fidgeted restlessly as the woman at the front of the room spelled out their instructions: draw a playground — a dream playground — and everything it should include. All the children attend a summer camp at the site, and the assignment wasn't merely for their entertainment. The plan is to incorporate their ideas into the design of a new playground that will be built in back of the gym.
Standing at the front of the room was a representative from KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization that helps build playgrounds. KaBOOM! brings together organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and corporate sponsors. In this case, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico has agreed to help pay for the project and will donate between $76,000 and $85,000, according to spokeswoman Consuelo Bolagh-Cowder. Boys & Girls Club will put in $8,000, which it is trying to raise now, toward the effort.
"Of course we feel strongly about keeping children active and healthy," she said. "We want them to have safe places to play in their neighborhoods."
Once the youngsters were given the green light to start drawing, they began chatting excitedly about what they wanted to see. Many dreamed of the more traditional things found at a park: a swing set, a seesaw, monkey bars and slides. Others let their imaginations run wild.
Eight-year-old Hayden Wallace who will be in third grade, wanted to see a giant tree house with a slide.
"I'm building a house," he said. "It has a ladder that goes to another house on top of it that has a slide."
Trevor Panuzzo, 7, a second-grader, has something special in mind to feed his need for speed, although he admitted swings are his favorite.
"I want a race track that goes around the whole playground," he said.
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Shelby Simpson said she wanted monkey bars, but tall ones because she's tall. She also said she would like to see a trampoline with a slide.
KaBOOM! will take the ideas and incorporate them into the design of the playground. Then, on September 8, KaBOOM! and the other participating organizations, along with 150 volunteers, will build the entire play area.
Tim Sheahan, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, said the playground would be a nice addition to the Rio Rancho site.
"We are looking for donations and will have some car washes," he said. "We like to get the community involved."
For more information
Anyone interested in volunteering to build the playground on September 8 or donating to the project can call Tim Sheahan at 505-881-0777.
Albuquerque Journal North