Volunteers gathered at Nixon Elementary school (2121 N. Keeler Ave.) June 30 after successfully securing funding to rebuild a playground for the Hermosa community. The plan to renovate the site had been in development for the past three years before finally achieving the proper funding to make the idea into a much needed reality.
Funding for the playground came from numerous sources including businesses and private donations. Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa allocated $90,000 from participatory budgeting (a democratic process in which the public gets to decide how to spend public budget).
“The [Hermosa Neighborhood Association] and parents had a large turnout [at the participatory budget meeting], then we also got $60,000 from Chicago Public Schools thanks to a lot of advocacy through the parents going to the Board of Education,” Colin Bird-Martinez, said, a member of the Hermosa Neighborhood Association.
The rest of the money was raised by KaBOOM, a nonprofit organization, and Foresters Finical. In the end, over $200,000 was raised in support of the project.
It has been reported that recently as much as 30 children were injured from the original 30-year-old playground the school had in place.
“About 10 of the children had cuts larger than five inches; the rest had minor injuries as a result of the unsafe equipment,” said concerned parent and advocate Maria Patino.
Safety was a top concern for the new playground. Planners are going as far as using a rubber matting instead of wood chips to prevent further accidents, among other precautions.
After hours of volunteer work painting and building in the hot sun, the day was concluded with a visit from Ramirez-Rosa, who also got his hands dirty by mixing and moving concrete for the foundation of the playground.
“Well, you know the city of Chicago faces many challenges, and oftentimes for working families, it can feel like we are treading water,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “It is difficult for us to get by, but this is a testament that when we work together we can accomplish great things.”
The playground will be completed two weeks from the start of the project after contractors finish laying the rubber matting. For more information and updates on the project, Bird-Martinez advises to go to the Hermosa Neighborhood Association Facebook page, as well as checking out Nixon Elementary’s website for opportunities to volunteer in the future. Check out the photos below from the event. All photos by Zack Keltner.