GARRISON -- Sometimes all you need are four dedicated moms to get the job done.

Children in Garrison no longer need to be driven to Brainerd or Deerwood to play at a city playground, thanks to a group of four mothers who raised about $36,500 to build a city-owned playground, which opened for business last weekend.

Until now, the city of Garrison didn't have a place for children to play. An antiquated playground is located at the former Garrison Elementary School which closed in the late 1970s, but it is too old and dangerous for children to play there, said Deanna Christenson.

The idea for the city playground was hatched in February 2000 at Haley Schmaltz's third birthday party. Shelley Schmaltz, Haley's mom and Christenson's sister, began to complain that there was nowhere in town for the children to play. So the women started brainstorming how they could build a city playground. They also enlisted the help of their sister Sherry Schmaltz and sister-in-law Betsy Schmaltz.

 

Haley Schmaltz, 4, the daughter of Shelley and Jeff Schmaltz of rural Garrison, peeked from behind the new playground equipment her mom and aunts raised funds to build at the new Garrison playground.

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The four women brought the idea before the Garrison City Council, which told them if they could raise enough money they could build a playground at the former hockey rink site in town. They then went to work, holding several fund-raising pizza parties and a carnival, selling trinkets and doing face painting at Garrison events and placing donation jars throughout town. They also sold brats, cooked up by their parents Ron and Ginny Danzel, Garrison.

"It was a family project," said Ron Danzel.

The women went to Garrison area businesses and clubs, asking for donations. They received donations from the Garrison VFW, $10,000; the city of Garrison, $10,000; Grand Casino Mille Lacs, $1,000; The First National Bank of Deerwood in Garrison, $1,000; and $500 from Mille Lacs Electric.

It was difficult to get donations because some people were skeptical about whether they could raise enough money, said Christenson. Others thought the playground was too expensive and not a necessity.

 

A grand opening ceremony for the new Garrison city playground will be held in about two weeks, said parent Deanna Christenson, who helped raise about $36,500 to build the city's only playground. About $30,000 is still needed to add another set of equipment that will complete the play area.

"I thought it was going to be easy," said Christenson with a laugh. "But it's been an uphill climb."

The four women researched playground companies by traveling to the Twin Cities, allowing their children to test out nearly a dozen different playgrounds. They also met with four different playground company representatives. The women wanted equipment that worked all muscle groups, was colorful and educational.

Once they secured enough money in December, they ordered half of the playground equipment, which arrived about a month ago. Since then, each weekend the women, their husbands and 11 children have been building the playground. They had several construction setbacks, primarily because of the frequent rain.

The new Garrison city playground was completed this weekend when the cement footings were poured and the wood chips were spread out. The women are hoping to raise another $30,000 so they can complete the playground project. The Garrison Lions' Club built a pavilion nearby last fall, so Christenson is expecting that the playground will be well used for years to come. A grand opening celebration will be held in about two weeks.

A smaller playset is designed for children 5 years and younger while the larger equipment is designed for children of all ages. All playground equipment is handicapped accessible. The playground features a large purple dragon, slides, a simulated climbing rock and cave, a sign language learning chart, a tunnel, swings and more.

Christenson said while they've been out constructing the play equipment, several children and their families have stopped by and said they can't wait for the new playground to open.

To make a donation to help construct the second phase of the new Garrison playground, send donations to the Garrison Playground Fund, First National Bank of Deerwood, P.O. Box 366, Garrison, MN 56450.