By MATT KOESTERS
After months of planning and fundraising, the construction of a new playground at the Henryville Youth Sports Complex will finally become a reality on Saturday.
Employees of the AmeriHealth Caritas Partnership and MDwise Hoosier Alliance are helping Henryville bounce back from the devastating March 2012 tornado through a $50,000 grant. The playground will be constructed on Saturday, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 2:30 p.m. that day.
The AmeriHealth Caritas Partnership has overseen 16 Safe Playground Builds to date across the country, with the earliest ones being built in Philadelphia dating back to the program’s beginning six years ago. The organization partners with local leaders, community members and corporate and civic sponsors to build a new playground in one day, though the grounds are prepared in the weeks leading up to the build date. The partnership — formerly known as the AmeriHealth Mercy Foundation — focuses on providing low-income areas with safe play areas to combat childhood obesity.
“Needless to say, if you don’t have a safe place to play, you can’t do the exercise either,” said Maria Battle, president of the partnership. “We found out that there were a lot of injuries from playing on dirt and gravel, and it wasn’t conducive to really great exercise.”
The $50,000 required a $40,000 match from local partners, which for a day looked like a daunting task. But the day after the News and Tribune published a story about a $20,000 funding shortfall, Kosair Charities and St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church combined to provide the funds needed.
“I’ll tell you, they put together a fabulous group of coalition people that are very caring about what happens with their children in Henryville, especially the Henryville Youth Sports Complex. We’re just excited to partner with them,” Battle said.
HYS volunteers will get started at 7 a.m. Saturday putting the equipment together, and the playground will be open for use after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The Henryville Youth Sports Complex is located at 3799 Park Road, Henryville.