Vance Air Force Base
2019 was an incredible year,
and 2020 is looking even better! Great things happened in 2019…we completed several fabulous projects, added new members to our team, and exceeded our sales goal by almost 50%. However, the best thing that happened in 2019 was that I became a grandmother! My sweet Kellen was born on December 23; healthy, tiny, and beautiful! As the mother of two sons, I warn you… this little girl will be spoiled by KK. Oh—that’s me. While I am delighted—over the moon delighted-- with having a grandchild, my ego just can’t accept the name of Grandma!! So KK it is.
As you all know, my youngest son, Daniel, joined our team in October 2018. The first project I assigned him was to design a playground for the Vance Air Force Base, as they had published a bid for a “jet themed” playground structure for their young families to enjoy. Daniel went to work, researching jets, control towers, runways, and life in the military. The end result was amazing, the AFB personnel loved it, and we were awarded the project in February of 2019.
We had several meetings with the AFB, “tweaking” the design and adding additional custom features. We had included some PlayCubes in the design, which the Colonel loved, but when he saw the PlayCubes 8.0SL, he said, “I want this”! So, we changed out items as well. I must say, the Colonel knows what he likes and has excellent taste!
The most meaningful change came with the tail number on the jet. I learned that every pilot flies a jet that has a tail number specific to him or her. We were asked to use the tail number “VN102”. What I did not know until later, was that “102” was the tail number of a young Vance AFB pilot who was tragically killed in a plane crash. This was done to honor him and his selfless service to our country.
So, with all of the changes made, we had our final design in place, and it went into production in late April. Since this was a custom themed structure, the manufacturing process takes longer than normal, so we didn’t install the equipment until August. But that was okay, because we had a lot of other work to do…..like grading, concrete curbing, sidewalks, and removing existing structures.
The park at the AFB has quite of bit existing playground equipment, but it is old! The area where the new playground was going to be installed had a playground structure that was probably 30 years old, but still in very good shape. During one of our pre-construction meetings, I asked the project managers if they knew of any organization that could benefit from the old structure, because I know there are many communities, churches and schools that don’t have the means to purchase new playground equipment. I am grateful to say they suggested a church nearby, just a few miles north of Enid.
Carrier Congregational Church is a beautiful church in Carrier, OK and has been there since the early 1900s. They were delighted to receive this playground equipment!
For those of you that have never installed playground equipment, let me tell you…taking it apart is not hard. But taking it apart and re-installing it without any diagrams or instructions is not an easy task! The Pastor, Kelly Cronkhite, was amazing. With the help of others, he numbered and marked every bolt, screw, post and deck, and took tons of pictures! Amazingly, he and several of his church members installed that playground in a weekend. I told him that when he decided to retire from preaching, I’d like to hire him!
The new playground is enclosed with curbing in a 73'x104' rectangle. A sidewalk leads the visitors from the parking area to the entrance of the playground. The surfacing is poured in place, and replicates a runway. We have a 5-12 jet, a 2-5 control tower, Unity SpinR with ADA seating, custom jet themed bouncers, Playcubes 8.0SL, and, of course, swings. The project turned out phenomenal.
The AFB planned a ribbon cutting ceremony for the playground on Thursday, October 10th. It was a beautiful, crisp fall day, and about 50 people attended, many of them anxious children. It was such a joy to see the smiling, eager faces as they waited, impatiently I must say, for the cutting of the ribbon. As I watched the children running, laughing, jumping, and playing together, I realized how blessed I am. The work I do can be stressful, exhausting, and even disappointing at times. But these moments, where I witness the beauty of play in action, make every sleepless night so worth it! As I was preparing to leave, a darling young girl approached me, tapped me on the back and said to me, "Do you know why there are so many jackets and stuff on a playground? It is because when kids see playgrounds like this, they drop everything to get to play." She could not have made my day any better.
Before I close, I want to tell you about an incident that happened to me while I was on site. And, just for the record, I became a Diamond Hilton Member because of this project!!
One day as I was leaving the Base to head to my hotel, I noticed the cars in front of me just pulling over to the side of the road. I didn’t know why, and frankly, I was a bit annoyed because I had spent about 8 hours on site, with 90+ degree temperatures! I was hot and sweaty. I was cranky. And all I wanted to do was cool down and call it a day. At that moment, I heard something. It was music—so as I pulled over, I rolled down my window and listened to the Star-Spangled Banner as it was broadcast throughout the Base. I looked at my watch. It was straight up 5:00. And then it dawned on me…Our National Anthem is played every day at 5:00PM, and people stop what they are doing and offer respect for this. They pull their cars over. They stand still on the sidewalk saluting the flag, or place their hand on their heart. At that moment, I felt chills throughout my body, and my aggravation was replaced with a great sense of pride. I was honored. Honored to be in a place that gave tribute to their country on a daily basis. Honored to witness other’s love for our country and the freedoms we enjoy. And honored to be right in the middle of it all.
Meeting the folks in Carrier, working with the AFB Project Team, Jenny, Willie, and Thomas, and witnessing the undeniable respect and honor the service men and women possess for our country made this project one of the greatest honors of my business career. I am forever grateful to have had this opportunity. And, I am delighted to tell you that this playground will be featured in Playworld’s 2021 catalog!
Until my next post, may happiness fill your heart and soul.