The Youth Village Child Care Center held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, January 17th to unveil their new playground experience in Fort Walton Beach. The event was attended by members of the community, including local government officials and donors from the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation.
- The new playground features artificial turf and a vinyl privacy fence, both of which were made possible by a generous donation from the Foundation.
Nellie Bogar, Founder and CEO of Youth Village, said they are “thrilled to have this new playground for our children.”
“The artificial turf provides a safe and durable surface for them to play on, while the privacy fence allows for a secure and enclosed space for them to learn and grow,” she said.
The Youth Village Child Care Center, located in Fort Walton Beach, has been in operation since 1999 and is licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families. They provide adult supervision for children ages 3-5 and in grades K-8 during non-school hours, with a focus on educational and social development. The center offers the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK), which prepares young children for success in kindergarten and beyond.
According to Bogar, about 1/3 of their program children live in low-income households and about another 1/2 of their students live in single-parent households.
- “These children are often regarded as ‘at-risk,’ but we prefer to call them ‘untapped’ because they have undiscovered strengths, talents, and knowledge,” she said.
The installation of the new playground experience was a collaborative effort between Youth Village and ForeverLawn Emerald Coast, a local company specializing in artificial turf. Sean Galkowski, Design and Sales Consultant at ForeverLawn Emerald Coast, said “We were honored to be a part of this project and to be able to provide a safe and durable surface for the children of Youth Village to play on.”
Galkowski and the Youth Village team conducted a full evaluation of the existing playgrounds and looked at samples of the ForeverLawn playground grass product. The project was split into two phases in order to maintain an active playground for the children during the construction process.
Phase one of the project involved the demolition of a small playground on the backside of the building, roughly 1,800 square feet. The project took three days to complete and required the removal of 30 tons of material and the installation of 25 tons of new material.
Phase two of the project was more complex and involved the demolition of the large playground area, removing approximately 130 tons of material including sand, dirt, and concrete. An old swimming pool was also discovered and removed from the area. In total, seven full-size construction containers worth of material were removed from the site.
Once the demolition was completed, the team brought in 85 tons of limestone as a base for the new turf. The team also installed 1,700 square feet of safety foam underneath the equipment to comply with critical fall heights, according to Galkowski. The project took seven days to complete, and the team added a 10-foot mound with a two-foot tunnel to the playground, providing an exciting new feature for the children to enjoy.
After the project was complete, Galkowski says he returned to the child care center and watched the children play on the surface, roll around and even watched the teachers getting in on the action.
- “You just don’t get that with dirt, sand or mulch in playgrounds,” he added. “So it is a fantastic opportunity for these teachers to be down on the children’s level.”
The new playground is already in use by the children at Youth Village and has received positive feedback from both staff and parents. The artificial turf provides a low maintenance option that is safe and easy to clean, while the privacy fence offers a secure and enclosed space for the children to learn and play.
Bogar, along with members of the Youth Village, expressed their gratitude for the support of the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, who made this new playground experience possible.
As Bogar stated, “This new playground will have a positive impact on the children for years to come, and we are so grateful for the support of the Foundation in making this happen.”