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Thank You, Playground Leaders!

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 7.37.21 AMBy now, everyone in Cookeville knows the Heart of the City Playground officially opened this month. But my Grands and many other children have run, climbed, jumped, and swung since December. Cookeville’s 12,000 square foot playground is unique in design and is accessible for all children – those who run on two legs and those who roll a wheelchair.

As I watched and listened during the Sunday afternoon Grand Opening ceremony, I felt a huge sense of pride. And not just for the playground. I’m most proud of the mothers who led this effort. The mothers of babies and toddlers and middle school age children. The mothers had said to each other that they wished for a place to get together with their children. A convenient place where their children could play safely and they could visit with each other. A place where all children could play.

One of these mothers invited me to a playground organizational meeting at city hall almost two years ago. I was the only gray haired person there – all others were young enough to be my children and younger. The meeting was chaotic and the enthusiasm on fire. I left knowing that these young parents would build a playground no matter what and that I’d met the future of Cookeville. During the past two years, I crossed paths with a few of these leaders.

Having no fundraising experience didn’t stop Elizabeth from volunteering to be in charge of raising almost $500,000. She and her committee hosted many events, everything from a gala where guests wore black ties and tiaras to Touch-a-Truck where children climbed on tractors and fire engines. They went to businesses and wrote letters and made phone calls to secure sponsors. And Elizabeth hugged and thanked a kid who gave $10, as if that was all the money needed.

Virginia captained the Design and Special Features committee. She and her committee made sure all the special Cookeville designs were authentic. Derryberry Hall, the Depot, Burgess Falls, and more. She moved those cut out pieces from under a tent during rain to a church basement or to anywhere she could find to keep the designs dry during the week long rainy build week. Virginia was the paint lady and she ensured that every board and screw top and bird and waterfall were painted the right color.

Ashley and Kelly, with smiles and encouragement and hard work, spearheaded as general coordinators. They complemented each other with their divided tasks. They led by example and never missed a chance to give credit to others. To Laura who organized 2,000 build volunteers and Alejandra who chaired a committee to babysit for the build volunteers’ children. Hannah made sure water, snacks, and meals were provided for workers. Ashley and Kelly sent an email to invite all volunteers to the Grand Opening. The invitation began with “YOU ALL SHOULD BE SO PROUD! WE DID IT! A lot of sweat, tears (and some blood!)… but it’s finished and you had a part in leaving a LEGACY for the children of this community for years to come!”


I marvel at the energy of these young mothers. Their dedication. Their perseverance. Their determination. As I watched them work together, I realized that Cookeville is in good hands. My generation appreciates this younger generation.

Congratulations to Ashley and Kelly and all the committee captains. I hope you talk and laugh together often as you watch your children play at the Heart of the City Playground.


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