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Volunteers needed to build new Amherst playground

Dozens of volunteers over the weekend built a playground in the village of Hamburg.

Now, it's Amherst's turn.

A call for at least 100 volunteers has been issued for the June 8-10 build at Billy Wilson Park on Hopkins Road, and you don't have to be Bob Vila to help out. Anyone who can swing a hammer or turn a screwdriver is welcome, said Mary-Diana Pouli, executive director of the town's Youth and Recreation Department.

"They don't have to be tradesmen, but we'd like adults who have a little bit of experience," she said. "We can take anybody, but it's helpful to have folks who have done this kind of work before."

Volunteers may sign up online at signupgenius.com/go/5080d4ba8af29a3f49-playground.

A major task is setting 100 posts in pre-dug holes by mixing dry concrete and water.

"That's going to be a huge job in the afternoon, and you don't need a whole lot of skill to do that," Pouli said.

Even volunteers who might be "all thumbs" are needed. Other positions include parking lot attendants, first aid assistance and food service.

"We plan to keep the volunteers hydrated and fed all day long," Pouli said.

Volunteers are expected to save the town $75,000 in installation costs. The Town Board in March approved the purchase of $180,000 worth of new playground equipment, including climbing and rolling apparatus with built-in sensory elements and a wheelchair-accessible Sway Fun Glider.

Army Staff Sgt. William R. "Billy" Wilson III

"It's kind of like a mini merry-go-round," said Pouli, who noted the new playground will be fully accessible to kids with disabilities.

Even adults who are kids at heart might enjoy one area that Pouli likened to the roller conveyor of a warehouse.

"If you're an adult you can just sit on it and it massages your back," she said. "It's really kind of fun. We tested that. Some of the more mature staff members tested that out and fell in love with it."

The June "community" build is Phase One of improvements to the playground area in the 25-acre park named in honor of a 27-year-old Army staff sergeant killed in 2012 in Afghanistan.

William R. “Billy” Wilson III grew up on Dodge Road in Getzville about a mile from the park where he often played. He was fatally shot March 26, 2012, when a member of the Afghan security forces turned his weapon on the local soldier.

Wilson would especially enjoy knowing that the playground will be accessible to kids of all abilities, said his mother, Kim.

“Billy as a little kid always reached out to other kids that had disabilities or kids he went to school with,” she said. “He always helped everybody. He’d be the one who would walk them to the bus.”

Phase Two will be adding a toddler area, and Phase Three will see the addition of swings and a water feature. The park also has a soccer field, sledding hill and walking path. The new playground for kids ages 5 to 12 will be built on the footprint of an old playground made of pressure-treated lumber that deteriorated and became hazardous.

"At the time it was put in it was state of the art but very quickly became obsolete with all the new surfacing and advances in the industry," Pouli said. "This is going to be much more available to folks with disabilities than the old one was."

The William R. Wilson III Memorial Foundation played a "critical" role in advancing the project, she said.

"This playground does not come cheaply," Pouli said. "The town has come up with the funds for the first phase for the equipment and the surfacing. Then the Billy Wilson folks are helping us with the odds and ends."

There's also a need to borrow tools for the June build such as battery-operated impact drivers, ratchet straps, a Sawzall and ladders. A complete list is available online at signupgenius.com/go/5080d4ba8af29a3f49-construction.

"When people invest their time and their energy in something, you know it's much more likely to be taken care of," Pouli said. "It's a community build, but it's really about community building and working with your neighbors and people you might not otherwise ever know."

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