OTTUMWA — Wildwood Park was buzzing with excitement Friday as dinosaurs helped princesses plant trees and rubber ducks assembled playground equipment.
The playfully named groups were actually Dr Pepper Snapple (DPS) employees, Job Corps representatives, firemen, police officers, teachers and community members volunteering six hours of hard work to build a brand new playground at Wildwood Park for Ottumwa children.
Chris Barnes, DPS director of corporate communication, described the atmosphere as enthusiastic during "Build Day."
"I think we’ve got so many different groups of volunteers from across the community, and it perfectly illustrates what a community is all about. People from across the town are doing something that is going to have a lasting legacy here," he said.
The Wildwood project is collaboration between the city of Ottumwa, DPS and KaBOOM!
KaBOOM! Project Manager Brenna Hull explains, "We are national nonprofit organization dedicated to something really simple, which is that all kids all over the United States need to play every day at home, in school and in their community in order to grow up to be happy and healthy adults."
After recognizing that one of the biggest challenges facing communities is raising funds, DPS created the "Let's Play" Initiative and partnered with KaBOOM! in 2011. The initiative is aimed at getting children and families up and active. The company has pledged to build 2,000 playgrounds across the United States, which will achieve its goal by getting more than three million children outside playing.
The project began 2 1/2 months ago when Ottumwa DPS plant manager Matt Rose saw the opportunity in a weekly internal newsletter and completed the application process. After receiving news that Ottumwa was selected to be one of 10 build sites, Rose began the most important step — organizing volunteers.
Fifty DPS employees were a driving force in making the project a reality. “These people have either ran their routes ahead, scheduled their sales course different, they did everything they needed to do to make sure that they could be here and be part of this today. The plant manager scheduled the lines so they didn’t have to run today, so that is why we picked the date that we did," explained Rose.