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Volunteers answer call to clean up Akron skate park

By admin Published: July 18, 2011

An eight-year-old boy and his stepfather wondered who might show up on Saturday morning to fix the rundown concrete skateboard park near Akron Fulton International Airport.

Here's some of the volunteers who answered the call:

•The owner of a local concrete company who travels during the winter performing magic for charity all over the world.

•The head chef of a Highland Square deli who started making burgers and hot dogs at 1 a.m. Saturday morning enough to feed 300.

•An Akron middle-school teacher who just finished learning how to motivate students by giving them real-world problems that they care about solving.

•The mayor of Akron, who told the middle-school teacher how to take the lead in applying for a $7,500 grant from a program the city funds with matching money available from the Akron Community Foundation.

With each new arrival, Randy Mcie kept shaking his head and praising God for the turnout of more than 50 volunteers.

''This is more than I really ever expected,'' Mcie said.

It all started back in early June when Mcie took his 8-year-old stepson, Joey Osco-Sadzewicz, to the skateboard park, an expanse of concrete canyons, slopes, stairs and ramps built about 11 years ago.

They found rubbish tossed around and graffiti sprayed across the walls, including profanity and racial slurs. But even the inoffensive graffiti is dangerous because the paint is slicker than the walls and plays havoc with the acrylic skateboard wheels.

The worst part of the skate park is inside a canyon with walls at least seven feet high. Police can't see over the walls, even from the parking lot.

Weather causes cracks

But the most costly damage is caused by the weather, which opens cracks in the concrete that are beginning to widen and crumble with what concrete experts call cancer.

When Mcie told Joey he couldn't let him stay at the park, Joey asked if they could fix it.

They knew the crumbling concrete was a big problem, so they started looking for concrete specialists in the phone book.

''We went through the phone book and we called a few other people who were completely uninterested,'' Mcie said.

Then Joey called Steve Cheatwood, who owns and operates RC Concrete Leveling.

He didn't know that Cheatwood has traveled the globe during the winter months, entertaining children with magic to help raise funds for a variety of causes. His levitation tricks are a big hit.

Cheatwood was greeting volunteers Saturday morning, trying to sort out who was an expert in what so they could organize their resources.

Chef prepares food

Volunteers get hungry and Micah Townshend decided that he could best help by feeding them. He's the head chef at Mr. Zub's Deli at the Matinee on West Market in Akron's Highland Square.

Kelly Vinson, a middle-school teacher for Akron Public Schools, knew how she wanted to get involved.

She had been out to the park last week for the first time with her 8-year-old son who zoomed around on a scooter and declared no fewer than three times it was the best day of his life. But the offensive graffiti and trash were hard to miss. She came back the next day with rubber gloves and filled a trash bag in 10 minutes.

She teaches at the Akron Opportunity Center, which serves children in grades 6 to 8 who can't be in regular classrooms because of emotional and social problems.

The school is learning how to use the problem-solving lessons in science, technology, engineering and math developed at the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM school.

Project for students

Vinson sees an opportunity to develop a project for her students around improving the skate park. While she was talking with Cheatwood about the possibilities, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic arrived and shook Joey's hand.

''Thanks for your help,'' Plusquellic said. ''Sometimes us older folks need younger folks to point out what we need to do.''

Program provides grants

Vinson told the mayor about her ideas and he told her about the Neighborhood Partnership Program, which provides $7,500 grants to neighborhood groups and organizations who pledge the volunteer hours to put the money to good use planting gardens, fixing up parks and even starting afternoon reading programs.

The city contributes $100,000 each year, and the Akron Community Foundation gives $100,000.

''It's very specifically for neighborhoods to decide where they want to spend the money,'' Plusquellic said.

''This is a perfect example.''

John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com.

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