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It's exciting enough for the youngsters of the Thoreau community that a new, state-of-the-art playground is set to be built this June. But making the project even more special is the fact that the children themselves are the ones brainstorming how the new facility will look. They did just that — brainstormed — at a fun-filled Design Day gathering on Tuesday evening, March 26, at St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School (kindergarten through eighth grade) in Thoreau.
Children and adults gathered in the St. Bonaventure cafeteria and, under the direction of Project Manager Kristin Karcsh, who is part of a non-profit national playground building organization called KaBOOM, used crayons and magic markers to draw their own individual dream playgrounds. Imaginations ran wild as they drew and colored in their perfect play worlds. The Design Day event was hosted by St. Bonaventure, KaBOOM, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico.
Earlier, the passionate Karcsh spoke to 100 or so students about the new play ground and their role in its building.
"They all knew the playground is coming and were very excited," said Karcsh. "The kids are dreaming big and that's what we want."
At the Design Day gathering that evening, about 50 individuals — school children, parents or other family members, St. Bonaventure faculty, and representatives from KaBOOM and project partner Blue Cross and Blue Shield — were on hand. The theme of the meeting was allowing the youngsters to give their playground creation input through their art work.
Before the youngsters got down to producing their 'blue prints' with crayons and markers, Karcsh led them in a five-minute exercise session.
Then Karcsh led a KaBOOM kids cheer. "1-2-3," she counted, before everyone, kids and adults alike, yelled, "KaBOOM." You could almost see the letters as the super duper-style word was spoken.
Moments later, the students, some from St. Bonaventure and others from Thoreau Elementary, Thoreau Middle, or Thoreau High School were drawing their dream playground pictures.
"This is your park and will be created by you," said Karcsh.
The drawings quickly took shape. There were enormous sliding boards on most of the kids' work. Some added swimming pools and ladders. Others inserted trucks and volcanoes, and one young boy drew a giant black tarantula in his vision of the playground park. There were also drums, horns, and even a trampoline. More power to the builders on June 8 who can incorporate all these visions into the new playground.
Thoreau High senior Sharell Abad, 17 years old, was on hand with her younger sibling, Kawaeia, just two years old.
"I think this program, with KaBOOM, is a good idea, and this is good for the kids," said Sharell. "The younger ones will especially love to play on the playground."
Earlier, siblings Tommy (fourth grade) and Diana (fifth grade) Halter gave their thoughts on the new playground.
As the children continued drawing their play grounds, they got a nice surprise when a big mascot, named Blue Bear — representing the Blue Cross and Blue Shield — was introduced. The friendly furry looking creature went around looking at the kids' drawings. Over the rest of the evening, Blue Bear, who did not talk, posed for numerous pictures.
Karcsh asked the children their color preference for the new playground. While multiple colors will be used, the preference from the youngsters seemed to be the color 'blue'. A rainbow look was also cheered on by the kids.
Volunteer builders, on June 8, will do their best to produce a playground which, close as possible, resembles and looks the way the youngsters depicted on their colorful drawings.
Upon completion of their drawings, the young artists enjoyed sandwiches, chips, and punch before taking part in some more activities, including more exercises and creating thank you cards and large banners. The evening, overall, was a grand time for all on hand.
Ultimately, the primary purpose of building the new playground is to give children in Thoreau an avenue to exercise and enjoy the outdoors.
A press release put out on the project stated, "Children need a place to play every day in order to be active and healthy, something KaBOOM has been committed to. The new playground will provide the children of St. Bonaventure and Thoreau, N.M., with a safe place to play. Currently, the children only have a small play space with outdated equipment to enjoy."
Becky Kenny, media specialist for Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said a well-built playground can be an outstanding addition in a community for families and children.
"We believe children need a place to play that's a safe environment," said Kenny.