Volunteers help build playground in St. Ignatius

 In about 4 hours, a dream became reality in St. Ignatius as more than 150 volunteers gathered to build a new playground in the small community nestled at the foot of the stunning Mission Mountains on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

 KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, partnered with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, St. Ignatius Elementary School and Cornerstone Faith Center to make the project a reality on Saturday, June 25 after months of planning and dreaming.

The playground is the third of its kind built in Montana with financial and volunteer support provided by BCBSMT – the first in East Helena in 2014 and the second in Billings in 2015. BCBSMT provided 90 percent of the funding and about 30 volunteers, who came from our Helena headquarters and offices located in Missoula and Kalispell.

“This is a weekend we look forward to each year,” BCBSMT spokesperson Jesse Zentz said. “This is our third build and it’s the first we’ve done in such a small community, but folks here really embraced us and embraced the task. It’s a beautiful playground that will provide kids with a safe and fun place to play for years to come.”

At a planning session in late April, children from the community provided their ideas for what they wanted the playground to look like by presenting drawings of their dream playgrounds. KaBOOM! designers then took those ideas and presented the community with the designs to choose from. The winning design included two slides, a Spinami, a Cosmic Warp and monkey bars.

Community member also decided to include several painting projects, storage containers and an outdoor classroom as side projects that also took shape during the 4-hour construction, a record for Kristin Karsch, who has been working for KaBOOM! as a senior project manager for five years. The build days generally take about 6 hours.

“In Chicago, no one has a wheelbarrow or a shovel,” Karcsh told the Missoulian. “Why would they? But here, everyone has tools.  “Montanans know how to build things, which makes my job easier.”

 While some volunteers used nuts and bolts to assemble the playground equipment, many moved a truckload of mulch and mixed concrete equal to the weight of two Asian elephants. Some grabbed brushes to freshen up the lines on a basketball court, create a map of the United States and beautify decorative lids for storage containers, among several painting projects. And others constructed those containers and an outdoor classroom that included a stage and three rows of benches.

“My heart is happy today,” St. Ignatius Elementary School Principal Dan Durglo told the Missoulian.