By Kathleen Rommel from Civic Builders


It’s time for me to confess. I had no idea what a soil tamper was.  I know, I know. The “soil” part is easy, and I know what “tamper” means, and I certainly know how Google works. So at the end of the day, my first hurdle? Cleared with room to spare. 

Now, for my second hurdle. My colleagues, along with the Blackstone Valley Prep team, were tasked with making sure we had enough of these so-called soil tampers, along with a list of other tools, ready to go bright and early on a work-in-progress construction site on a Saturday morning. Surely it was going to be difficult to find people to commit to lending their tools—let alone their time—to do manual labor so early on a Saturday morning.  But let’s cut through the foreshadowing. My second hurdle? Once again, cleared with room to spare. 

I should have known. This wasn’t any old construction site. This wasn’t any old Saturday. This was a Let’s Play community build day for Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2. This is a site where you look up at 8:45 am (for a 9 am start time) and volunteers are already pouring in. This was a site where nearly 100 community members, Blackstone Valley Prep staff, and our Civic Builders team came together to manually assemble a playground for Cumberland children and the students of Blackstone Valley Prep.  






As the day progressed, I was thoroughly impressed with the show of support for this school and its scholars. With children hard-at-play at Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 1, volunteers were so hard-at-work at Elementary School 2 that the project was being completed well ahead of schedule. Through teamwork, focus, and a good dose of heavy lifting, we were able to install a brand new playground that encourages creativity and gets kids active. This playground goes well beyond the traditional slide that I knew as a kid—there are climbing walls, balance boards, a trifecta slide that lets multiple kids swoop down at the same time. So, my third hurdle? Remembering concrete does not harden immediately, which meant I would have to wait to testing out each and every part of this fun new playground.  Let’s just say that hurdle was cleared, but that I’m still a little disappointed I didn’t get to test out the monkey bars. 

With the playground now undergoing the final steps necessary to prepare it for students, I’m still in awe of the amazing community effort that made this project possible. The experience of working with such an inspiring group of people has convinced me that these students, this school, this community will be able to clear every hurdle they are faced with impressive room to spare. Warm congratulations to the students on their new playground, many thanks to those who came out and to Whole Foods, Angelo’s Palace Pizza, Eastside Marketplace, and Dunkin’ Donuts for keeping us well fed, and to KaBOOM! and Dr Pepper Snapple Group for making this playground possible—and now, Let’s Play!


About Kathleen:


Kathleen Rommel joined Civic Builders in 2013 as Communications Coordinator. She is responsible for Civic Builders’ communications and marketing, including the annual report, social media, events, and donor outreach.  Before joining Civic Builders, Kathleen held various development and communication roles with nonprofit organizations, including FACE for Children in Need (2012-2013) and Aguayuda (2010-2011).  She also worked in the field as an English teacher and orphanage caregiver in Accra, Ghana (2008). Kathleen graduated with an MA in Literature from Wake Forest University (2012) and a BA in History and Literature from Georgetown University (2008).