OTTUMWA — One person will find it a lot easier to make a difference, said a proud city official, when they have 366 other individuals who decide to help.
“That shows great community support,” said Ottumwa Mayor Tom Lazio.
He was at Wildwood Park on Monday, ready to open the newly built Kaboom! playground. It would be the first time a group of kids was allowed on the equipment, and they knew that Lazio would be the one to give the order opening the play area.
One child asked another how they’d recognize the mayor of Ottumwa.
“Mayors,” explained Isaac, 10, while looking around for the man, “wear a tuxedo.”
Parks Director Gene Rathje, City Councilmen Skip Stevens and Bob Meyers as well as Mayor Lazio (wearing a basic business suit) gave a brief presentation before ripping away the orange snow fencing that had kept children out.
“Are you ready to play on the playground?” Mayor Tom Lazio asked dozens of children.
“Yeah!” shouted the kids. The kids almost bowled over the parks director as he pulled open a small space in the fence.
Jumping up and down at the top of a climbable boulder, Jenna, 9, cried out, “This is amazing!”
Lazio said he wasn’t surprised by the eagerness of the children. But he was a bit awed by the 367 volunteers who worked straight through the day Friday to build the playground.
“It looks nice,” said Jaxson, a 5-year-old getting ready to swing across the monkey bars.
“The kids designed what they wanted, and here it is,” said Lazio. “It’s beautiful. Matt Rose at Dr Pepper Snapple Group really got this thing started.”
Lazio pointed out some extra features, like the wooden benches for parents and a small ramp leading into the play zone.
“You can wheel right up here in a wheelchair,” Lazio said, pointing out the paved pathway.