With a warm and sunny day Saturday, the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA in Cranberry Township invited its volunteers to help finish an outdoor playground.
Nearly 30 volunteers throughout the day helped install a zip line, slides and assortment of other features as part of a new playground that is expected to be ready by May 1.
Planning and preparations for the playground have been in the works for five years, according to Carrie Ohorodnyk, the YMCA's executive director. With most of the work completed Saturday, Ohorodnyk said she expects the playground to be open for the organization's summer programs.
The playground was made possible in part with the help of the Cranberry Township Rotary which raised $25,000.
Ashley Vranick sorted through screws to help with the playground's installation. As the YMCA's Youth and Family director, she said she was looking, forward to the opportunities this would provide for children and “adult children.”
“Because of COVID, we're not traveling with the kids, so having this playground is a phenomenal opportunity,” Vranick said. “With kids being so virtual this year, we now have a great outlet for them to be kids again. We'll get them moving again and building friendships.”
And in September, Vranick said, there will be eight preschool classes that will get to use the playground along with all the counselors who are just as excited to use it.
“We're all just big kids,” Vranick said.
Vranick said opening day May 1 also will be the grand opening of Healthy Kids Day, and she said the YMCA expects several other features such as a trackless train and chiropractors present for the entire community to celebrate.
“It all goes back to our theme this year, so getting kids to be healthy and getting away from the computers,” Vranick said. “We want to help them foster positive relationships and overcome anxiety. And that's something we could all use, not just kids.
Shavonne Ayres of Bellevue, a Cranberry Rotary member, helped Saturday. She credited the project to the late Dennis Mason, a Rotary member who died last year.
“He was instrumental in getting us involved in this,” Ayres said.
Ohorodnyk noted there are many other playgrounds in the area, so the Y wanted to create something different.
“We have so many great playground facilities in Cranberry, and we didn't want to compete with them, so we have very different things in this one,” Ohorodnyk said, noting their playground will have a zip line, among other things. “It's a statement piece for sure.”
She noted the playground also will have a climbing wall. And for the preschoolers, part of the playground will be devoted to younger children.
Ohorodnyk said things such the new playground are important for the YMCA to raise awareness in the community about its services.
She said the Y experienced a drop in membership, down to 65 percent compared with pre-COVID membership.
And with new membership fees going to capital projects supporting things such as the playground, she hopes to bring membership levels back up.