In the morning there was bare ground, and by afternoon, south Charlotte children had a new place to play.
About 500 volunteers spent Wednesday building a playground at the Kennedy Campus of Elon Homes for Children. It was the 31st playground -- and first in Charlotte -- built by Racing to Play, a program sponsored by Home Depot, the NASCAR Foundation, Joe Gibbs Racing and KaBOOM!, a nationwide organization that creates places where children can play near their homes.
After descending on the site Wednesday morning, the army of workers sawed, painted, poured concrete, shaped walkways, molded mounds of mulch and hoisted playground equipment into place. Now, kids can climb on a racing-themed jungle gym that stretches at least 20 feet long. They can sail through space -- well, just above the ground -- hanging by their hands from a monorail. They can play tetherball. When all that wears them out, they can relax in the shade.
The construction crew included NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Johnny Sauter; former racer Rusty Wallace; and Craftsman Truck Series drivers Stacy Compton, Brian Scott, Scott Lagasse Jr., Sean Murphy and Colin Braun. Stopping work to sign autographs, Stewart said the new playground offers children more than recreation. "They'll build social skills and relationships that will last a lifetime," Stewart said.
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Racing to Play has built playgrounds in 22 cities on the NASCAR racing circuit. In October, volunteers will install another in Mooresville.