Nearly 40 adults raised their hands to form a human tunnel at Speas Global Elementary School as about 70 students walked through to the school’s new $75,000 playground.
Shrieks and shouts followed as the children rushed to play on each section of the outdoor equipment last week.
A partnership between American Airlines and Carter’s Kids enabled the building of the 1,500 square-foot playground that is designed for children ages 5 to 12. Features include climbing walls, ladders and slides.
Many of the thank-you cards from Speas students and classrooms to American Airlines and Carter’s Kids for their generosity were on display at the playground.
One card stated: “Dear Carter’s Kids, thank you for being able to provide the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders with a real playground. This opportunity of a new playground really is a dream come true.”
Speas third-graders Ever Cooke, 9, and Selah Wiley, 8, said they had a good time playing on it.
“I think it’s really cool,” Ever said. “I’m so excited that it’s actually here. I’ve been waiting so long.”
Selah said her favorite parts are the climbing handle bars and swings.
“I really like it,” Selah said.
Robert Ash, the principal of Speas Global Elementary School, said that the playground is a great opportunity for Speas given that the school’s population has doubled in size over the past six years.
Currently the school has nearly 780 students, compared with fewer than 380 six years ago.
“It’s also great for the community,” Ash said. “It’s going to give them a place to play and enjoy when we have other families that are out here visiting our campus on weekends and after-school hours. So we’re really looking forward to having a place for our students to play, especially our older students — third, fourth and fifth grade.”
Kathy Saunders is the customer experience manager at the reservations office for American Airlines in Winston-Salem.
“We’re just very passionate about being able to get out and help the community,” Saunders said.
She said that American tries to reach out to the community to see where people have needs.
“Our employees have such big hearts,” Saunders said, explaining that the company has a “Do-Crew” made up of employees who volunteer their time to help and give back to the community on their own time.
American Airlines employees, Speas parents and staff, as well as members of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools ground crew built the playground in 1½ days.
Carter’s Kids is a nonprofit organization that has helped build about 100 playgrounds, the majority of which are across the United States and one in Mexico City. The organization was founded in 2006 by Carter Oosterhouse, a TV personality known for home-improvement shows.
“I started this to fight childhood obesity and keep kids physically active,” Oosterhouse said. “Then we realized that it’s so much more than that. It’s a community space where people can gather, not just (where) kids play but parents tend to meet each other.”
Oosterhouse, who lives in Los Angeles, said that he has worked with American Airlines in the past to build a number of playgrounds.
Parents said they were thrilled about the playground.
Karina Bowen, an employee of American Airlines and the parent of two students at Speas, said that parents at the school have been working for a long time to raise money to build a school playground and then the opportunity came to work with others to get one.
“What better way to give the school what it deserves,” Bowen said.
Before the partnership between American Airlines and Carter’s Kids there was no playground at Speas.
“Most of the time they (children) ran out here and would run and play soccer,” Bowen said.
She expects the new playground to help the children be more active in different ways.
Another parent, Heather Hosey, said that the students have needed a playground.
“Play has so much to do with helping development of children emotionally and physically, and our kids didn’t have an opportunity to interact with each other in this way prior to this playground being here,” Hosey said. “They really were sort of left to their own devices here and were trying to creatively occupy their playground time.”