BRADENTON -- The principal of Team Success, the charter school that teaches kindergarten through eighth-grade students, said the school needed a new playground for the past few years.
Thanks to the Tampa Bay Rays and community volunteers, Team Success got that playground on Thursday.
"Every year I'd have two or three kids breaking an arm on the old equipment, and I'm talking about kindergarten and first-graders," said Fred Spence, principal and CEO of Team Success, 202 13th Ave. E. "And to pick up the phone and call a parent, saying, 'Come and get your baby, they broke their arm,' that's the hardest call in the world."
Spence said he knew the students deserved better than the outdated, 20-year-old equipment, and he was determined to make it happen.
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Team Success applied for a playground grant in September through KaBOOM!, a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging physical activity in young children. The Rays have built five playgrounds for schools in the Tampa Bay area in the past five years through KaBOOM!, and the organization recommended Team Success this year.
The Rays paid for all of the equipment, which cost somewhere between $60,000 and $80,000, according to Spence, and brought in 150 volunteers to build the entire playground for the 400 students within six hours.
Other community members chipped in as well, bringing the total number of volunteers to more than 200 people.
Brian Auld, president of the Rays, said he used to teach at school with a lot of children on free and reduced-price lunches, so the projects were personal for him.
"They didn't have a playground for the first three years that I was there, so I went through the grant process and was able to help facilitate a KaBOOM! playground at the school I once worked at," Auld said. "Now that I have the opportunity to work on the corporate and funding side of things, it's wonderful to know we can give kids a better way to enjoy their days, every single day. I've seen what it can do for students, teachers and the community."
Team Success is the only Title I charter school in the county, according to Spence. It rose from an F school to an A in 2012 but dropped to a B in 2013 and to a C in 2014.
The old playground was torn down in mid-October to make way for the new, bright-yellow equipment. Tons of soft mulch were laid to make falling less of a hazard for students.
Spence said even though the playground would be finished by 3 p.m. on Thursday, the students would have to wait to play on it until Monday.
"That'll be a fun day," Spence said.