Hundreds of volunteers help build a new North Light Community Center playground

On Tuesday, a playground grew from the ground up in Manayunk.

Shortly after 8:30 a.m., the North Light Community Center grounds swirled with activity.

It was then that 75 community volunteers, 12 representatives from a national nonprofit dedicated to creating playspaces for children (Kaboom!) and more than 100 employees from a corporate sponsor (GlaxoSmithKline) gathered to build the center’s new playspace.

Each of the 20 “build captains” oversaw the completion of specific tasks. That included installing playground equipment, painting two murals, mixing and pouring 20,000 pounds of concrete, construction of an outdoor classroom, spreading much mulch and building of a raised-bed garden.

A multi-day site prep

Children participating in North Light’s programs were asked in July to contribute ideas for the space and helped choose a final design from Kaboom! plans based on their contributions.

The physical effort began Thursday as sections of nearby streets were blocked off for the staged delivery of materials. (Access to the site by vehicle is limited, but North Light neighbor Chad Esposito permitted the temporary removal of a fence and allowed access to the driveway.)

Two preparation days turned into four on Saturday after North Light staffers and volunteers tasked with excavating the playground site to one and one-half feet struck Wissahickon schist at one foot.

A call for help late Saturday brought assistance and heavy equipment from area contractors Ramos & Associates, CJ Koch of Renovate Philly and Zane Cleveland.

Students from Villanova University participating in the annual St. Thomas Day of Service also assisted with the site preparation.

Members of the university’s fraternity chapters volunteered early on Sunday, while the men’s basketball team helped out that afternoon.

“We never would have been able to accomplish any of this without them,” said Dana Dabek, North Light’s director of institutional advancement, of the overall volunteer effort.

The back story

North Light announced the start of this effort back in July.

Since its founding in 1995, KaBoom! has led more than 1,500 playground-construction projects by pairing funding partners with community organizations. Funding for the North Light project is being provided by GlaxoSmith Kline.

Locally, KaBoom! facilitated new playspaces in Kensington (2012), West Oak Lane and West Philadelphia (both in 2013).

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