How many Major League Soccer All-Stars does it take to put in a playground? Apparently only three.
Well, three, along with the assistance of nearly 250 sweaty volunteers, most of whom were wearing mud-caked shoes by the end of the day. And don't forget a bit of extra labor from five other MLS players, including three from our beloved Dynamo.
Under grey, rainy skies and with the crack of thunder sounding in the distance, a shiny orange and blue playground was unveiled at Golden Acres Elementary in Pasadena on Tuesday afternoon.
The MLS players, league commissioner Don Garber, Sir Bobby Charlton (ultra-legendary Manchester United striker), the volunteers and the local press were on hand for the ceremonial "board cutting" (apparently ribbon-cutting has fallen out of favor).
The Dynamo's Pat Onstad did the honors.
The project was a collaboration between members of the MLS All-Star team (as part of MLS W.O.R.K.S., the league's charity branch), Home Depot, KaBOOM! (a non-profit organization that goes around working on similar playground projects) and members of the community, but Hair Balls wants to be sure the majority of the credit goes to the latter three organizations.
The MLS players and league reps did show, but that was only after the cameras were in place.
Near the end of the last school year, Golden Acres principal Gloria Chomenko had to make the tough decision to remove the previous playground because the structure was not up to code.
"It was heartbreaking to have to do that to the kids," Chomenko said. "But [the school] just didn't have the money to make the necessary repairs."
Soon after, the school applied for and was awarded a grant through Home Depot to put in a new playground, which made for a positive end-of-the-year gift to students and staff.
Though the hard labor for the playground commenced at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning (actually, a crew had to come in on the Saturday prior to prep the area), the planning began months earlier. Designs were considered (which were submitted by students), weekly Wednesday planning meetings went down and a volunteer force was assembled.
By the time the project was completed, just in time for the 1:30 p.m. press conference, 130 cubic-yards of mulch had been strewn about, four palettes of concrete had been mixed (by hand and rake) and five picnic tables had been assembled.
Three members of the All-Star roster were on hand to contribute their efforts, along with six other MLS players, including the Dynamo's Bobby Boswell, Geoff Cameron and Onstad.
While the playground construction was ongoing, Garber commended the Dynamo as one of the most active MLS clubs within its local community. (We assume the Dynamo's star forward, Brian Ching, was still working on "The House that Ching Built.")
Boswell gets Hair Balls' high-five of approval as the most down-and-dirty MLS contributor, doing all the work barefoot. Onstad, who was mainly stationed in the mulch pile, was a close second.
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Apparently it was asking too much to have American soccer hero Landon Donovan to go from the World Cup to the Late Night circuit to the ESPYs to a small elementary school outside
For the record, only one of the MLS players who came out is slated to start against Manchester United on Wednesday night: Javier Morales of Real Salt Lake.
So the event was not exactly what it was publicized to be.
But a group of elementary school children have a brand new playground and that's all that really matters.