Restoring a park allows an Oregon Key Club to hone key leadership skills.
By John Simmons
The idea for the Marshfield High School Key Club’s biggest project to date began to take shape more than two years ago, when members of the Coos Bay, Oregon, club took a walk to the South 10th Street Park. They found a run-down, weed-infested area with old, rusted-out playground equipment, a cracked basketball court (with no basketball hoop), no benches and no lighting.
“There was absolutely no reason that anyone would want to play in this park,” says Stacy Gulseth, the Marshfield Key Club’s advisor.
Quite simply, the park needed a makeover, and the Key Club decided to take charge.
After a spirited discussion at a club meeting — and after handing out surveys and talking with their friends and neighbors — Marshfield Key Club members decided to adopt the park.
“I think we showed a lot of leadership,” says Key Clubber and webmaster Andrew Sheerin, “in stepping up to the plate.”
Club members presented a proposal to the Coos Bay Parks Department manager, the Parks Commission Board and, finally, to Coos Bay City Council members in November 2016.
“Two of our young members gave a very impressive presentation,” Gulseth says, “with a hand-drawn picture of the park and the features the club wanted to see added.”
Just four months later, the project received final approval from the Coos Bay City Council. A budget drawn up by the city estimated that it would cost nearly US$100,000 to restore the park. Bravely, Key Club members pledged to raise $52,000 of those funds. To date, the club has raised $43,463 and additionally received more than $10,000-worth of in-kind donations for everything from concrete mix and playground padding to garden blocks and plants.
“We do a lot of community service work, but this was a big project. I think we were a good role model and helped to wake up this tiny little town.” — Kyah Brueckner, Marshfield High School Key Club
How did Key Club members raise so much money? They received grants, including a $15,000 KaBoom! Let’s Play grant, and found sponsorships. And then there were the fundraisers: two car washes, two raffles, three garage sales, countless days working school concessions or delivering Candy Cane and Valentine’s Day grams, and hosting a “Parents Night Out.” At the latter, Key Club members entertained kids from pre-K to the fifth grade with games, crafts and a movie so their parents could enjoy a night on the town.
Best of all, there was “Flamingo Flocking,” or as Gulseth calls it, “the best fundraiser ever.”
“We place pink plastic flamingos outside a ‘victim’s’ home or business with a note that they’ve been ‘flocked’ for a good cause,” she explains. “For $10, a Flamingo Wrangler will remove the flamingos. You can also buy Flamingo Insurance, where $15 will keep you flamingo-free for six months, and $25 will protect you for a year. The community’s response to Flamingo Flocking has been overwhelmingly positive, and their donations have been very generous.”
All the hard work paid off this past May, when the club participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new Marshfield Key Club Pirate Park. Members will host community clean-up days — including planting flowers and trimming shrubbery — to keep the park clean and beautiful. They also are incorporating amenities that adults can enjoy, including an already-installed set of horseshoe pits, and are fundraising to support the addition of outdoor fitness equipment and picnic tables complete with inlaid chess/checker boards. (One set of each will be ADA accessible.)
“My grandma used to bring me here, and I used to play in that park, so it was exciting for me to play a part in fixing it up,” says former club member Hayden Brick, who graduated in the spring.
Adds Marshfield Key Club Vice President Kyah Brueckner, “We do a lot of community service work, but this was a big project. I think we were a good role model and helped to wake up this tiny little town.”
“I am so very proud of all of our Key Clubbers,” she says. “This was a huge undertaking, and I’m not sure they realized how much time, work and dedication it was going to take. I know I didn’t. But the most exciting thing was seeing how the park helped them build self-esteem and develop new skills within themselves. I think we all learned a valuable lesson: that taking on more than you think you can do — and then achieving that goal — can sometimes be a good thing.”