FB John Kuhn (30) and LB Nick Barnett (56) help put the finishing touches on the new playground at Nicolet Elementary School on Tuesday.
As a group of Nicolet Elementary School fifth-grade students were spreading woodchips to put the finishing touches on their new playground on Tuesday afternoon, they could be heard shouting what they liked best about it.
"It's so much bigger!"
"The swings are higher and longer!"
"And there's more swings so we don't have to take turns!"
Then one last detail, from a young Packers fan.
"It's green and yellow!"
If nothing else, the colors will provide a subtle reminder in the coming years at Nicolet as to how the students got their new playground, through the 11th annual United Way Hometown Huddle project. Several Green Bay Packers spent the day helping to install the new equipment, re-paint the old equipment, and spread large piles of mulch to serve as a soft and safe playing field.
Nicolet was the beneficiary of not only this year's local Hometown Huddle project, but also an additional $5,000 grant through United Way Worldwide that helped to purchase an additional swingset and climbing components for the playground.
Tracey Holmes, NFL partnership director for United Way Worldwide, explained that the national theme of this year's Hometown Huddle project was to promote youth fitness and health. Because the new Nicolet equipment also included a curriculum of lessons and games geared toward youth fitness that teachers can tap into, it made the project an attractive candidate for one of five additional $5,000 grants.
"There are over 100 lessons that combine education with physical education," Holmes said.
She added that the Green Bay project would be part of a United Way commercial to be aired during the Thanksgiving Day contest between the Packers and Detroit Lions on Nov. 26. NFL Films was on hand Tuesday to videotape the construction from start to finish, and a time-lapse sequence will be aired to close the halftime show during the Thanksgiving game.
A group of Packers players - including receiver James Jones, cornerback Al Harris and offensive linemen T.J. Lang, Breno Giacomini and Evan Dietrich-Smith - along with other team employees, city workers and United Way volunteers, got to work in the morning installing the new structures and re-painting some of the old ones.
Then linebacker Nick Barnett and fullback John Kuhn helped the dedicated crew in the afternoon with spreading the wood chips over the entire playground area, old and new.
The manual labor was by no means a walk in the park, but the effort was well worth it.
"The kids think this playground is the coolest thing in the world," Kuhn said. "They really like the new swings. I heard a couple kids say this was way better than doing reading."
While they know they won't be able to shirk their homework duties for extra play time, the fifth-graders who were working on the wood chips in the afternoon all said they'd been hoping for the last few years their school would get some new equipment.
"When I was young, I would have loved to have a new playground with new swings and all kinds of crazy stuff out here," Barnett said. ""I'd like to start playing myself. But it feels good to be part of something the kids are excited about."