When volunteers showed up to Encanto Park, located at W. 9th St. in San Bernardino at 8 a.m. on Wednesday October 25 to participate in the building of a new playground, they encountered a park that had previously been left to deteriorate.
“Before 8 am, it was an isolated park, neglected for many years,” said San Bernardino councilmember Virginia Marquez. “Fast forward to 2:25, you see that it’s been transformed literally.”
Approximately 200 volunteers helped renovate the small park that they hope will be enjoyed by the area’s children for generations to come.
The project was led by the KaBoom project, a non-profit organization that aims to bring balanced and active recreation to children in impoverished areas. Since 1996, the organization has built an estimated 2,500 playgrounds across the U.S. and organized five playground builds in San Bernardino. For two months, volunteers from sponsoring organizations met every week to organize the event’s logistics, such as garnering more volunteers and ensuring supplies and other necessities were purchased.
Funding for the project stemmed from the Dr. Pepper/Snapple group. According to corporate communications director Chris Barnes, the group provided $25 million in funding through the Let’s Play Initiative for the playground build. The group’s local sales branch in Riverside then took the point to work with the city of San Bernardino, KaBoom, and neighborhood and the Home of Neighborly Service services that is next-door to the playground.
“This is where my roots are and we felt the need to partner up with these guys and get this done,” said Roger Conway, the regional director of Dr. Pepper/Snapple’s Riverside office who graduated from Cal State San Bernardino. “Initially they asked what community would best fit the needs of the Riverside office. I think the folks at Home and Neighborly services provided the perfect spot.”
The city’s main contribution was ensuring the use of the park’s land, preparing the site, and providing tools.
Mayor Carey Davis, one of 12 required city officials needed to volunteer for the project, volunteered for the entire build, helping prepare mulch and mix concrete needed to construct the playground’s area. Davis said the hard work put forth by the volunteers is a perfect example of what can be accomplished in the city if people work together.
“This really is a great day in San Bernardino,” he said. “You can see what can be accomplished when the community comes together. It builds a camaraderie among our community to be able to work together. We’re building strong bonds and other community members will take that sentiment and act upon it and do something good for each other.”
Basketball Coach Chris Shade of American Sports University said he and his players were fortunate to have participated in the event.
“Honestly, It’s our civic duty,” he said. “This is for the kids. We want to make sure they have somewhere safe and sound and have somewhere to play.”