Youngsters have a new place to play in Elmwood Township. A nautically themed playground, part of the revamped Greilickville Harbor Park, was dedicated Saturday with the help of Traverse City native and host of HGTV’s “Carter Can,” Carter Oosterhouse.
Families celebrated the opening of the new play area with a picnic lunch, face painting, balloon twisting demonstrations and posing for pictures with Oosterhouse while sand sculptor Ray Villafane created a massive aquatic scene on the beach.
Oosterhouse’s nonprofit foundation, Carter’s Kids, was instrumental in building the new playground, replacing the former play area where Oosterhouse says he played as a kid.
“I loved playing here when we were little kids. Coming back for this project has been a fantastic opportunity for me to give back to Traverse,” said Oosterhouse, whose group travels around the country building playgrounds, mostly in low income areas, to help keep kids active while fighting childhood obesity.
“Once we found out about this project, it all came together very quickly,” said Oosterhouse, noting that donations from the Ken and Faye Shaw family and the Art and Mary Schmuckal Foundation made the playground a reality.
Charter Township of Elmwood supervisor Jack Kelly said that until the township received donations totalling $45,000, prospects for a state of the art playground were slim.
“The reality of the situation was that we did not expect to be in a position to install any new playground equipment on site, except for perhaps a set of swings, until next year at the earliest,” Kelly said.
Instead, the playground complex now includes areas to climb, slide, spin and swing.
“My kids just love it here; we already have plans to come back tomorrow for a party,” said Shelly Stanton, of Elmwood Township, while watching her 3- and 5-year-old daughters play.
In addition to the playground area, the park features improved beach access, a promenade and new picnic pavilions with restroom facilities made possible with grants from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Kellogg Foundation and Rotary Charities of Traverse City. A formal park dedication and ribbon cutting are planned for 11 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 28.
Plans for a second set of bathrooms and a bridge linking the park with adjacent Traverse City Light & Power property are planned for next spring.
Last weekend, HGTV host Carter Oosterhouse stood in a Dallas gymnasium and got to announce the arrival of superstar Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade. While not one of their hometown players, Wade was in town for the NBA’s All-Star weekend, and the duo received cheers not only for their on-camera talents, but for the time they were committing to the Turnkey Boys & Girls Club of southern Dallas.
Oosterhouse’s nonprofit organization Carter’s Kids works to promote fitness and self-esteem to young people. With much of the nation’s focus on the childhood obesity epidemic, America’s Boys & Girls Clubs need added attention to encourage healthy, active lifestyles.
“The Boys & Girls Clubs do wonderful things,” Oosterhouse said. “[The Turnkey Boys & Girls Club] is the oldest in Dallas. It had seen better days.”
Carter’s Kids, along with the Wade’s World Foundation — Dwyane Wade’s nonprofit entity — completely refurbished the club, built a new playground, repainted the gym walls and added new lights, in what they called The Big Assist.
“The reaction was amazing,” Oosterhouse said. “That’s why I started Carter’s Kids. When you get that natural response that only kids can give, it’s so worthwhile. They were so excited to see [Dwyane Wade]. They felt it was really cool that people were reaching out and supporting them.”
The Wade’s World Foundation supports education and health for at-risk children through local programs. Wade has said his goal is to leave the world better than he found it, based on his mother’s encouragement that life is bigger than basketball.
Oosterhouse agrees that community-based involvement is where to start.
“I definitely think you have to be local first,” he said. “Whatever you can do, whether it’s your local school or a local Boys & Girls Club. There’s the front line of trying to attack this problem and curb childhood obesity.”
You can contribute to either the Wade’s World Foundation or to Carter’s Kids to further these charitable efforts.
On October 24th, 2008, Carter’s Kids visited the Kids of Excellence Child Care Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. With contributions from Nautica Fragrances, we were able to help rebuild the day-care center’s playground; we also donated toys to the children at the school. This was our first venture in Louisiana, and everyone had a great time.
On October 10th, 2008, more than 500 volunteers gathered for the United Way’s “Day of Caring” to paint a mural celebrating the new day-care center at the Hispanic Unity of Florida. With help from Nautica Fragrances, Macy’s, and the United Way, we helped refurbish the playground. We also donated several items to the facility, including tricycles, basketball hoops, fitness toys, slides, and a balance beam. The children were very excited about their newly renovated playground!
The Children’s Place PJ Party at the Children’s Memorial Hospital