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A new park for kids, and a new porch to watch them from

Discover employees Angie Devore (left) Sarah Hendersmix wheel barrels concrete during constructinew play park Wright Avenue Elgin. 
The new playground

Discover employees Angie Devore (left) and Sarah Henderson mix wheel barrels of concrete during the construction of a new play park on Wright Avenue in Elgin. The new playground will provide hundreds of children in the Elgin community with a safe place to play. Currently, the existing wooden playground equipment at Wright Avenue Park is old and in need of replacement. September 28, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 1, 2012 6:37AM

ELGIN – The oldest playground in the city now has the newest playground equipment.

Volunteers saw to that Friday by rebuilding the playground in just one day based on children’s design suggestions.

“Wright Avenue Park was the last place in Elgin to have wooden playground equipment,” said Mayor David Kaptain. “It was 25 years old and starting to rot.”

According to Danielle Trezek, project manager for KaBoom! which spearheaded the efforts, the new playground equipment at the 8-acre park meet current Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

There are four swings and a tire swing, four slides, a music station, rock-climbing walls, Quattro seesaw (for four at a time), Overdrive (upside down merry-go-round), picnic tables, benches and an outdoor stage with a classroom.

Cherie Murphy, assistant to the Elgin city manager, will install a butterfly garden.

The new play structures are geared for children ages 2 to 15. Since concrete needs at least 48 hours to set before the playground can be used, opening day will be held on Saturday, Oct. 6.

The playground equipment was made possible through a grant received by United Way of Elgin from KaBoom! and its corporate sponsor, Discover Financial Services.

“This is the biggest playground I’ve ever worked on,” said Roger Hochschild, president and chief operating officer of Discover. “Building playgrounds is a great way to give back to the communities where we work and live.”

The Wright Avenue Park playground is the 18th playground built by Discover. It is also the 2,175th playground built by KaBoom!

Randy and Jan Sandman of Elgin, volunteers with United Way, came on Friday morning to help build the playground. Randy has more than 40 years of construction experience.

“This is a wonderful community effort,” Jan Sandman said.

Student designs

Elissa Kojzarek, United Way of Elgin manager, said the project began this summer when students at Huff Elementary School in Elgin drew pictures of their dream playground. Parents sorted through the pictures and chose what they thought their children would like the most.

Huff Elementary students, along with children from the Prairie Valley Family YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin, were on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday afternoon. Huff Elementary students created the ribbon for the ribbon-cutting. They also made 500 thank you cards to give to the volunteers.

To build the playground, 50,000 pounds of concrete were brought in along with 345 cubic yards of mulch. Gift cards were buried in the mulch piles so that they could be discovered and kept by the volunteers as they moved the mulch.

At the same time that the playground was being installed, a resident across the street was being given an early birthday present.

Dorothy Kvien will turn 84 in October. She has lived in her Wright Avenue home since 2004. She came to Elgin in 1978 after her husband of 32 years, Maurice, died.

Kvien now lives with her granddaughter, Ashleigh Mounger.

Kvien is originally from North Dakota where she taught elementary school. She later worked as an office manager for 30 years for Avenues to Independence in Wheeling.

United Way of Elgin has partnered with the city of Elgin Neighborhood Housing Services, Elgin Community Networks and KaBoom! to work in the southwest neighborhood near Bluff City Boulevard. While the playground installation was scheduled for Friday, NeighborWorks Day was planned for Saturday.

“We are working on five houses by Huff Elementary School,” said Johnny Placeres, NHS director. “There are three houses on Jay Street, one on Hastings Street, and one on Cookane Avenue. Work includes painting and landscaping.”

Placeres and Josh Harris of J.B. Harris & Co. Inc. came to Dorothy’s house earlier in the week because they wanted to add her house to the project.

“I stood on the front deck, and my foot went through,” Placeres said. “When I met Dorothy, she had me at hello. This is what NeighborWorks is all about. It’s good to do the work that we’re doing.”

Kvien’s deck was torn down on Thursday and rebuilt on Friday. People who volunteered to work on Kvien’s home included Eric Schmidt, IHC Construction; John Fahy, Elgin Fire Department chief; Lynne Bosley, United Way of Elgin; Tamara Welter, Elgin Police Department sergeant; Shelley Mendiola, EPD; Harris; Placeres; Glenn Theriault, EPD commander; Kojzarek; and Amy Hitchinson, NHS.

Kvien said she once enjoyed sitting on her front deck and watching the children in the park. Due to the hard work of volunteers, she will soon be able to sit on her front deck again while watching children play across the street on their new playground equipment.

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