The Norman Transcript

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September 8, 2013

Building up Briarwood

NORMAN — Volunteers brought the kids of Briarwood Elementary School one step closer to normalcy Saturday as a top-notch playground rose on the Emmaus Baptist Church grounds that houses the school after it was destroyed in the May 20 tornado.

“This helps them rewrite the story, or better rewrite the ending of their story,” said Briarwood Principal Shelley McMillian.

“The last day of school was horrific. It puts one more day between them and May 20,” McMillian said as she watched a group of her kids haul material toward the playground site.

The playground project has been all the kids have been talking about last week, she said. The racing slides. The zip line. The monkey bars.

“They have been fantasizing about it,” McMillian said.

Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” blasted from oversized speakers. Kids were running and tossing the football with Nike volunteers. More than 200 helpers, ranging from age 5 through retirement age, worked together on play structures, raked wood chips into place, painted the sidewalk and secured fences. It was a party atmosphere, but some serious work was accomplished Saturday morning.

The playground is the first of five to be built by KaBOOM! and Nike as part of the rebuilding effort following the May tornados. Briarwood kids will play at the new structure until they move back. Briarwood and Tower Plaza schools will also get new structures once the rebuilding efforts are wrapped up.

 “I know how to build a playground, but it’s the community coming together,” said Chappy Rago, KaBOOM project manager. “They had five weeks and made it happen. I learned here what it means to be ‘Moore strong.’”

Kathy Webb, a Nike representative from the company’s Oregon headquarters, said that even though the group and some volunteers arrived three days ago to prepare the site, the majority of the work was done in just six hours.

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