40,000 foam blocks removed, cleaned

Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Cassville Middle School students recently removed mountains of foam blocks by hand — about 40,000 of them — from the foam pit play area at the local YMCA, as part of a volunteer project to help out their community. About 11 students pitched in to complete the job, which took nearly two hours, compared to days for staff. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Students turn project into ‘block’ party

If some consider Monday mornings to be the pits, about 11 Cassville Middle School students were literally in the bottom of one on a recent Monday morning when they helped remove about 40,000 foam blocks for a volunteer project to help the Cassville YMCA.

How do you accomplish such a feat? One block at a time.

The 10-foot deep pit, which also has a rock climbing area, is one of the center’s most popular features for children. A trampoline runway leads up to the pit, which children can be seen diving off of, supplying hours of fun while parents exercise. But, not all YMCA centers have the unique pits.

“When I have staff from other YMCAs visit, they always notice the foam pit,” said Dove Haney, Cassville YMCA center executive. “It is unique to Cassville that we have it. It’s what sets our YMCA apart from others.”

Once a year, the foam pit is completely emptied and thoroughly cleaned. Up until now, staff have been tackling the enormous job, which Haney said takes many man-hours for staff members to do, and one Haney has helped do herself.

“It’s a huge chore that’s done once a year,” said Rick Ragsdale, Cassville YMCA program director. “It’s probably one of the most time-consuming projects of the year.”

Staff were grateful when they received a call from Ron Hudson, Cassville Middle School assistant principal, asking if they had any volunteer projects they could use help with.

About 11 students began removing foam blocks at 9 a.m., and by 11 a.m., had nearly completed the job. During that time, they were given a 25 minute break, along with water and a granola bar.

“It’s a huge blessing to be able to do the job in two hours in what usually takes two days with staff,” Haney said. “We get down to the bottom and clean it out.”

After getting to the bottom of the pit, staff thoroughly vacuum and clean the area, then retighten the springs in the trampoline, which the foam blocks sit on.

The students, who completed the gargantuan job as a volunteer project and as a reward for surpassing their third-quarter reading goals in Leslie McCullough’s eighth-grade communication arts class, were happy to help and get a break from the routine of the school day. They were also rewarded with pizza for lunch, and they got to keep any spare change they found in the pit.

“We’re trying to find more ways we can get students involved in the community and volunteer projects,” McCullough said. “It also gives them a chance to work with other students in their grade that they may not choose to hang out with, so I think a lot of relationships are built, and it gives them a new perspective.”

Eighth-grader Robert Preddy said he enjoyed helping his community, but also getting a break from class.

“It’s pretty great,” he said.

“But, we still have to make up our work,” student Rebelle Starr reminded Preddy.

The students, who were laughing, smiling and throwing blocks of foam back and forth, appeared to be having more fun than if they were completing any old work project, and one that would overwhelm most adults.

“It’s fun,” Starr said.

Interesting items students found in the pit included: notes, hair bands, spare change, a cell phone and game pieces.

“All the kids are getting T-shirts, and we’re feeding them pizza for lunch to show our appreciation,” Haney said. “We support the school’s program of doing community service and are grateful for their help.”

On the same morning, another group of students completed a community project at the Haven of the Ozarks.

“We cleaned out cat and dog cages, and the students had time to walk around and play with the cats and dogs,” McCullough said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: