Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Ribbon Cutting Opens Mathis Park Playground
By Caitlin Davis
Oct 15, 2012, 13:29

photo by Caitin Davis “I declare this park open.” Jo Turek, along with the Mayor, and the contributors to the Playground Initiative, cut the ribbon on Mathis Pirate Park after a community build.

With a helping hand from community members and soldiers from Ft.Lee, a new playground for the children of Hopewell began to take shape over the weekend.

Although there was still some work left to do on Saturday, the ribbon was cut to celebrate the opening of the Mathis Pirate Playground. A pirate made an appearance to hand out out pirate hats, while a clown offered face painting and the concession stand offered snacks.

Jo Turek, Director of Recreation and Parks, said the project was just the start of what is to come in Hopewell.

“This brought in a lot of community members and organizations that are part of helping update the playground,” Turek said.

In addition to the Ft. Lee soldiers, Virginia American Water had about 10 employees come out on Friday to help with the build.

Mayor Christina Luman-Bailey turned out on Saturday to join in the celebration and thank everyone who helped make it possible.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has been a part of this,” Bailey said. “It is great to see it all happening.”

Andy Clark, a member of the Rotary Club of Hopewell and the Recreation and Parks Planning Committee, also gave his thanks to everyone there on Saturday.

“The true great thing about the project was it was not just one club, it was multiple clubs, multiple community members,” Clark said.

The playground at Mathis Park was made possible by a $20,000 grant from non-profit organization KaBOOM! and their partnership with Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, $15,000 from the city and a donation match from the John Randolph Foundation. Individuals donors also contributed $6000.

The donations kept coming on Saturday. Steve Benham, President of the Hopewell Rotary Club, presented Turek with a $2000 check.

“I just want to say thank you,” Turek said. “You all have made my day.”

Clark said people in the community were generous. He said people would stop him on the street to give him $20 for the playgrounds in Hopewell.

“Once we finish spreading the mulch here today, let’s get started on the next playground,” Clark said.

The volunteers who came to help with the build did so with hammers in their hands. Vice-Mayor Wayne Walton, Judge Bruce Clark, Jr., and City Manager Ed Daley could all be seen ready to work.

“It is a wonderful thing for the community to participate in,” Daley said.

Daley said the build was not just a way support the community and partnerships within the community. It was fun.

“Plus I think it’s been fun,” Daley said. “It’s been fun putting it all together.”

SFC Tonya Gilson and SFC Chris Hatcher from Ft. Lee brought 50 soldiers to help put the new playground together. The soldiers were there as part of a class with a volunteering requirement.

“What we do for the community is what we do for America as a whole,” Gilson said.

“It is just making the community better,” Hatcher said. “And keeping the soldiers involved with the civilian community so they don’t get too separated. If you stay within the community, the community will accept it more as family.”

Gilson and Hatcher alike said doing work that will benefit children helped bring them closer to their children at home.

“90 percent of us have children and we are away from our kids,” Gilson said. “It brings me closer to my son.”
photo by Caitlin Davis The pirates of the park. Children gathered at the new playground on Saturday to take a peek at the new equipment at Mathis Pirate Park.

Lisa Sharpe, Executive Director of the John Randolph Foundation, said she was was happy to see the project come together to provide the children of Hopewell with a new place to play and get exercise.

“This is a part of wellness,” Sharpe said. “They are playing and getting exercise while they do it.”

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