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Community

Rays help kids design dream playgrounds


Sulphur Springs - Layla's House

Sternberg wore his work clothes on Saturday, joining 225 volunteers, 150 of them from the Rays organization, who worked with KaBOOM! and residents of the Sulphur Springs community to build a new playground at Layla's House: An Early Childhood and Parent Community Learning Center.

KaBoom

The new playground's design was based on drawings created by children who participated in a Design Day event in October.

The new playground will provide hundreds of children in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood with a safe place to play. Construction was recently completed on Layla's House, but it was scheduled to open without playground equipment for children before the Rays committed to providing funding for a new playground.

The Rays are the only Major League Baseball team to have partnered with KaBOOM! for a community playground, and this will be the third project following a 2009 build in Riverview and a 2010 build in St. Petersburg. The project is one of more than 150 playground builds KaBOOM! will lead across the country in 2012 in an effort to provide a nice place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

In addition to Sternberg, team president Matt Silverman, farm director Mitch Lukevics and executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman served as volunteers.


Layla's House

Layla's House

James B. Sanderlin Family Center

James B. Sanderlin Family Center


St. Petersburg - James B. Sanderlin Family Center

On Monday afternoon, the Rays reached out into the community to begin a new relationship with the James B. Sanderlin Family Center in South St. Petersburg.

Rays personnel and the team mascot, Raymond, hosted activities for youngsters, who will be the recipients of an initiative by the Rays and the organizers of KaBOOM! that will see a playground built before their eyes on Dec. 18 at the center.

"Finding the right partner, the right site, the right timing to build a playground is difficult," said Rays senior vice president Brian Auld. "There are a lot of different logistical issues that have to come together.

"The Sanderlin Center has been a great location. Last year, the YMCA [in Riverview, Fla.] worked out really well for us. We were definitely more focused on the South St. Petersburg area this year."

Auld addressed the gathering of approximately 35 children, and the give and take between Auld and the children brought a lot of smiles.

For example, when Auld asked them about what would transpire at the center, one of the children chimed in: "It's going to be like 'Extreme Home Makeover.'"

Auld went on to explain that the Rays and KaBOOM! needed the help of the youngsters in designing the new playground, because they were all adults and a long time had passed since they were kids.

Monday's "Design Day" allowed the youngsters to put crayon to paper to draw their dream playgrounds, which ultimately will come to fruition. Elements from the children's drawings will be incorporated into the final design for the community playground to be built at the center. Design Day also facilitated the first meeting of the playground committee, which will work to prepare for the construction.

The playground will be completed -- from start to finish in full -- on Dec. 18. At the end of the day, when the whole playground has been built, there will be a feeling of accomplishment among all participants. Not only will the children and their families have some ownership of the community asset, but so will the Rays and their employees, who will work to bring the project to completion.

The Rays are the only Major League Baseball team to have partnered with KaBOOM! for a community playground, and this will be the second project following the 2009 build in Riverview.

"I want to reiterate that we've really tried to become more focused on this particular area, because it's right in our backyard and it's a place where we feel we can do a lot to help," Auld said. "Doing this at this center is really going to make a difference in the local community and is going to be something we all feel really good about."

KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit organization that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Since 1995, KaBOOM! has used its community-build model to bring together business and community interests to construct more than 1,700 playgrounds, skate parks, sports fields and ice rinks across North America.

"KaBOOM! is incredible," Auld said. "They've built 181 playgrounds in The States this year. And for us, there's no other organization that can put to work our entire staff. It's a great day for us from a corporate culture standpoint and [a human resources] standpoint, because we get people from all different areas of the company working together.

"It's really difficult to find projects that can occupy 150 to 200 people happily for an entire day. KaBOOM! does an amazing job of that, and at the end, you've got this playground that wasn't there before. You get to really look at the results of what you've done before."


Riverview - YMCA Camp Cristina

Rays personnel and the cheer team hosted activities for youngsters, who will be the recipients of an initiative by the Rays, Tampa Metropolitan YMCA and organizers of KaBoom that will see a playground built before their eyes on Dec. 4 at YMCA Camp Cristina in Riverview.

"The kids have been so excited about this," said Suzette Armatas, vice president of marketing and communications for YMCA Camp Cristina. "They were getting all of the cheer team's autographs. They were just so excited about it."

Once the outdoors activities wrapped up, Thursday's "Design Day" allowed the youngsters to put crayon to paper to draw their dream playgrounds, which ultimately will come to fruition. Elements from the children's drawings will be incorporated into the final design for the community playground to be built at the YMCA. Design Day also facilitated the first meeting of the playground committee, which will work for the next six weeks to prepare for the construction.

Rays employees get a paid day off once a month to do community service. More than 200 Rays employees will use their day in December to volunteer and help build the playground along with YMCA volunteers, all under the supervision of KaBoom.

"It's another investment we're making in our region," Rays team president Matt Silverman said. "It's great to be able to provide a safe place for kids to play and an asset for the community. We hope it's the first of many of these ventures. This one will be the product of our employees to actually put something in the ground."

The playground will be completed all on Dec. 4, which Armatas said can have a dramatic effect on the children.

"At the end of the day, the whole playground is built, and they feel like they've accomplished something, that they've been part of the process," Armatas said. "What's going to be nice about it, is hopefully the Rays are going to have some ownership to it, because they are connecting. And we'll have some ownership, because we'll be very proud of it, too."

Anyone wishing to volunteer with the project can contact Suzette Armatas at sarmatas@tampaymca.org.