“How did we get so lucky?” and “Thank you for choosing our town!” were the two phrases that Rotary Club of Lakewood member Valarie Frost kept hearing in the town of Matapalo, Costa Rica when she traveled there in June to help install the old Bolivar Park play equipment that was donated to the small community.
“This is the first playground that most of the kids there have ever played on, and they are loving it,” said Frost. “They swarmed over it on opening day, and I have seen photos of them continuing to enjoy it in large numbers ever since."
The 1990s-era play equipment was removed from Bolivar Park in 2016 to make way for two new playgrounds that opened at that park last year. There’s no market in the U.S. for used playground equipment, so large parts of the used Bolivar equipment would have simply been disposed of in a landfill.
“There had to be a way to repurpose the Bolivar equipment since it was still very usable,” said Frost. “So the Rotary Club of Lakewood decided to partner with the non-profit group Kids Around The World, which specializes in refurbishing and transporting used American play equipment to orphanages and impoverished communities around the world.
“We’ve seen in Lakewood how playgrounds are great for children, building creative minds and healthy bodies,” said Frost. “I definitely saw that in action as the children of Matapalo frolicked on their new playground.”
“None of that would have been possible without lots of Lakewood residents and businesses who supported the effort. Thank you all.”
Frost and fellow Lakewood Rotarians Tania Whiteleather and Richard Michaels, along with Kevin Bright of the Lakewood Recreation and Community Services Department paid their own way to travel to Costa Rica to help install the playground. They also installed a sign saying that the playground was “proudly donated by the community of Lakewood, California, U.S.A.”
“Practically the whole town of 500 people in Matapalo came out for the opening day celebration,” said Frost. “It was a huge deal for them, and they were very appreciative of the gift they’d been given by the people of Lakewood and all the other partners in this project.”
A video about the installation and playground opening can be seen at www.lakewoodcity.org/CostaRica.