The town of Chandler came together Saturday to help build phase one of an inclusive playground for children.

For 12 hours, more than 60 volunteers gave up their Saturday, flocked to the Chandler Town Park and spent the day helping to put together phase one of the three-tier Be the Change Playground project -- a pricey project to install accessible play equipment for kids.

Spearheaded by 4 A Better Chandler Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for residents of Chandler by implementing programs and projects that inspire, empower, educate and enrich the lives of every resident in the community, phase one of the Be the Change Playground project includes 16 activities and two bucket swings for children ages 2 to 5.

It took less than a year of fundraising from 4 A Better Chandler Inc. to reach the $50,000 goal needed for phase one.

About $33,000 was generated from fundraisers by 4 A Better Chandler Inc. The fundraisers were organized over the course of last year, including cinnamon roll bake sales, breakfast with Santa,

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a giveback at El Maguey, community food drives, the Chandler 8K, Chandler Fest, Chandler Celebration Days talent show, music in the park, back to school splash, a youth fishing tournament and more.

$27,000 of that money was raised and donated last November when Christian Science Society of Boonville Irrevocable Trust gave them a grant for $10,000 on Nov. 10 and just a few days leader, private donors gave them a generous $17,000 on Nov. 15.

Volunteers from Arby's, the Boonville Fire Department and Chandler Fire Department, Chandler Town Council Member Ron Whitledge and people from many other organizations and businesses spent all day moving bags of concrete, assembling colorful playground equipment and working together to build something for the community.

And while the parents worked, the children had fun painting mini-murals.

"It was a way they could feel like they were participating," said 4 A Better Chandler Inc. President Wendy Wary. "I want them to be able to come back to the park and play and say, 'hey, I painted that!' "

Casey's General Store also provided free lunch while Wessler Engineering, Hamlin Equipment Rental and LNB Community Bank of Chandler sponsored the event.

While the majority of the volunteers helped out on Saturday, a group of six, including Wary, spent the majority of that previous Thursday drilling 20 holes in the playground.

"We wanted to get a head start on the build day," she said, "so we could spend more time putting equipment together on Saturday."

Wary and the other board members of 4 A Better Chandler are already focused on fundraising for phase two of the Be the Change Playground, which Wary says is the least expensive of three phases, rounding out at about $35,000.

Phase 2 includes a new, three-bay swing set that will feature two harnessed, accessible swings, four traditional belt swings and rubberized safety surfacing.

Wary said they plan to open phase one of the park up for play before Memorial Day weekend but does not yet have a set date of when it will be safe to play on. Although all of the equipment has been put together, the concrete still needs time to settle in and the surfaced still needs to be rubberized.

Wendy said the park is all about having safe fun.

"It is a place for kids to have a good, safe place to play on," she said.

Marisa Patwa is a graduate of the University of Evansville with a degree in journalism and minor in political science.

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