The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier has re-opened its playground after it was damaged by fire a year ago, which prompted a big response from community members and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation.
The new playground cost about $140,000 and the foundation donated more than half of that, said Joyce Wilson, chief development officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier. The rest of the donations came from community members.
“This playground is instrumental in giving our kids an opportunity to interact with each other, run, jump, play and just have unstructured free time where they’re able to focus on not just having a good time but also on improving their health,” said Brook Davidson, president of the clubs.
The new playground is dedicated to the foundation for their contributions with a plaque soon to be posted on the playground fence.
Construction was completed in April, and club members at the Positive Place location and students at Fair Street International Academy next door have been using the new playground since, Wilson said. But they had to postpone the ribbon-cutting ceremony until Wednesday, Aug. 25, because of COVID-19 concerns and conflicting schedules among board members and officials from the Falcons.
The new playground has many of the same elements and types of equipment as the last park including a slide and multiple climbing areas. It also features new wood chips, fencing, benches and a rope climbing feature that the old playground didn’t have, Wilson said.
The old park was burned down in an arson incident, Gainesville Fire Chief Jerome Yarbrough said at the ceremony. The fire was called in at 6:46 a.m. July 25, 2020, and after an investigation, the department found the suspect was a 10-year-old boy who is still in juvenile rehabilitation for the incident. “It was just a sad situation,” Yarbrough said.
Playground equipment was left damaged beyond repair, and the community stepped up, even beyond the Falcons’ large donation.
A pair of 9-year-old twins, Harrison and Patrick Flack, thought they could help rebuild the playground, too. The boys, sons of the clubs' board secretary Callie Flack, decided to sell cookies and lemonade at a stand in their front yard one Saturday soon after the fire. Harrison had the idea for lemonade, and Patrick wanted to sell cookies, Harrison said.
The boys raised $667.05. They only sold about $50 worth of food and drinks, but people donated extra money after seeing the boys’ hard work. The boys made the lemonade and cookies themselves, and had some help from friends throughout the day, Harrison said.
The boys got to help cut the red ribbon, sharing an over-sized pair of scissors at the ceremony.