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A Dragon’s Tale

There once was a Dragon, giant and colored green, who delighted so many children; it made quite a scene. For years, he watched the preschool playground for all, ensuring the kids were safe and didn’t take a big fall. “The time had finally come, though, to travel,” he said; a new fun adventure was pictured in his head.

Did you ever wonder what happened to the old preschool playground equipment and the iconic green dragon? The stalwart equipment and the grounds that had served St. Francis so well needed renewal. The parish needed a new drainage plan for the site to address water issues, which required significant investment and construction, and the preschool faculty and its director, Mrs. Heidi Hobler, sought a solution. Working with PlayPower, an outdoor recreation company, a new playground facility was proposed and built after the completion of the resurfacing and drainage work, but what of the old equipment? It was still serviceable and could be reused, all while recognizing the values of St. Francis of Assisi Parish. A beautiful new play structure, with a safe play surface, new equipment, and a dinosaur to replace the dragon, soon took shape, but PlayPower had an idea on how to give new life to the beloved dragon and the previous play structure; “No,” said Heidi, “the old equipment did not end up in a landfill.”  

Dragon was excited; his thrilling journey was almost here. He cleaned up, dressed well, and packed; the time was near. He was headed south for a change, to bring joy anew. Island life could be good, by waters so blue!

Todd Brinker, a Senior Vice-President at PlayPower who leads the ‘Little Tikes’ brand, had the plan. PlayPower had a corporate relationship with ‘Kids Around The World’ (KATW), and he knew they could help. KATW allows for the reclamation of old playgrounds by identifying commercial playgrounds in the United States scheduled for replacement. They disassemble, completely refurbish, and ship them overseas to communities in need. Many times, this is the first time the children in these communities have ever seen a playground. The joy they experience when playing on a playground for the first time is magical, and now the St. Francis Preschool playground could be part of that magic!  Bryan Yeazel, a parishioner and CEO of PlayPower, is impressed with KATW. He says, “‘Kids Around the World’ is a great organization. It’s a ministry-driven organization, and when they reclaim and refurbish playgrounds for less developed countries, they usually tie it in with a food program for the local community. They have done over 1,000 of these playgrounds worldwide, and the St. Francis Preschool playground in the Dominican Republic was one of those.”

Dragon had settled into his new space; the smile was now wide on his freshly cleaned green face. Children still climbed onto his scales; they played, had fun, and laughed loudly in gales!

The dedication and commitment of the ‘Little Tikes’ representatives made the St. Francis playground reclamation even more special. They happened to be on an incentive trip at a resort in the Dominican Republic when the scheduled installation was to take place, and they loved this program so much that they volunteered to give up a day of their incentive trip to help install the St. Francis Preschool playground in this community with the KATW team. As Heidi Hobler gushed when she heard, “Our beloved Dragon has a new life!”

“I think it’s great because it gets at core sustainability, hospitality, and helping your neighbor,” says Bryan. The crew may have taken the St. Francis Preschool playground to the dump on Durant Road, except for this program and the values long espoused by the St. Francis community.  “Instead,” Bryan says enthusiastically, “there is a neighborhood in the Dominican Republic with 100 kids that can play on it every day, and they don’t care in the slightest that it’s a refurbished model.” That’s a great benefit for them and a recognition of the values of sustainability, care for creation, and the dignity and care for people around the world espoused by our St. Francis community!

While he fondly remembered his old play space, Dragon was happy here with the sun on his face! The new children loved him as much as the old, but now, in the winter, it wasn’t so cold! He recalls St. Francis with a gleam in his eye, knowing it was hard for them to say ‘bye.’ But now that his story was to be told to all, he loved that his old friends would think and recall; they’d remember the good times, the play, and all of the fun, and they’d love that new children played with him as they had done. For this old dragon, it was all about the joy; he still saw it on the face of each new girl and boy. 

  Author: Mike Watson