For the fun of it, volunteers tackle Salvation Army playground in Annapolis

The playground at the Salvation Army was in sad shape: 50 years old, falling apart and infested with bees. It was so shabby that kids were no longer allowed to play in it.

That changed this month with a daylong construction blitz that ended with a new playground featuring swings, slides, a rock wall and a zip line.

"When they went to school this morning, there wasn't a playground. When they get out, they will have a playground," said Katrina Hill, a project manager with KaBOOM!, the nonprofit group that coordinated the June 14 project. "They didn't really have a place to play before, so this is going to get lots of good use."

KaBOOM! linked the Salvation Army with the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., which was looking to build playgrounds in the Baltimore-Annapolis area. BGE lined up about 100 volunteers and donated $80,000 from parent company Exelon's charitable fund to pay for the bulk of the cost of the playground. Tools were borrowed from the Baltimore Community ToolBank.

An army of volunteers in neon green T-shirts (slogan: "Energy to play") drilled and sanded wooden benches, hauled mulch on blue tarpaulins, assembled slides and painted checkerboard tabletops.

The playground was designed with the help of dozens of kids who participate in the Salvation Army's programs, said Richard New, captain of the Annapolis branch. They drew their dream playgrounds, with tire swings, trampolines, climbing walls, monkey bars, sandboxes and, in one child's imagination, a Chick-fil-A restaurant.

Adults refined the vision and worked with KaBOOM! and Playworld Systems to order the equipment. The finished playground includes rainbow-colored pavers, swings, monkey bars, a toddler area shaped like a bulldozer, an outdoor classroom and picnic tables.

Ten-year-old Robert Bulla of Crownsville was eager to try out the playground. The old one, he said, was "dusty and creaky, and there were hornets' nests. It wasn't much fun."

As he eyed the suspension bridge and rock climbing center, he declared: "Everything is much brighter and new."

His mom, Randi, was excited about the new playground, too.

"The adults joke: 'When the kids are all in Sunday school one morning, we're all going to come out and play,' " she said.

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