By Libby Hopkins

A playground is more than just a place for children to play and get exercise. “It’s a brain-expander, friend-maker and a muscle-builder,” said Rotarian, Karen Frashier. “Play is central to a child’s ability to grow into a productive adult.”

Rotary Camp Florida is an 18-acre, barrier-free campground for children with medical, physical, mental and emotional illnesses or challenges. The camp’s current playground is in need of some major upgrades to accommodate campers with these special needs. “When I began working for the camp in April of 2014, one of my main concerns was that the current playground was in need of some upgrades and repairs,” said the camp’s Executive Director, Liz Fields. “The playground was not accessible to many of the children that use the camp.”

Fields started to research ways to build a new playground with little to no costs. She found KaBOOm! Since 1996, KaBOOm! has been dedicated to the goal of ensuring that all children get the balanced and active play they need to thrive because play matters to all kids.

“I called KaBOOm! and asked what we had to do to connect and become a community partner with them to get the ball rolling,” Fields said.

The requirements to be a community partner include the camp providing the site for the playground, providing volunteers and committing to a partial payment. The camp received the payment by donations from several rotary clubs from the Tampa Bay area. “As rotarians, we believe that play matters,” said Tom Wagner, Rotary District 6890 governor. “We found out that our campers and their families would help design our all-ability playground.”

The Met Life Foundation also came on board with the playground project. The camp’s new playground construction will begin on Thursday, September 24 and they are still looking for volunteers from the community to help with the project.

“We still need volunteers for the site prep day on September 24 and these volunteers must be able to lift, carry and work on a construction site,” said Fields. “We also need volunteers to serve food, help with parking and to do activities with children.”

All volunteers must be 18 and up. The kick-off ceremony takes place on Saturday, September 26 from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. at the camp. To volunteer with the playground project, register at Rotary’s Camp Florida is located at 1915 Camp Florida Rd. in Brandon.

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Libby is a writer for The Osprey Observer/The Christian Voice. She started as an intern in 2009 and upon finishing her internship, she was asked to stay on as a permanent writer for both papers. Libby lives in Brandon with her two rescue dogs, Olive and Bogey.