Bobby Engram, community team up to build playground for Tulalip Boys & Girls Club

TULALIP — A gray, rainy day became a lot brighter for the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club Nov. 11, when hundreds of community members, Home Depot employees and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Bobby Engram came together to build a playground for the Boys and Girls Club in a single day.

Engram joined more than 200 Home Depot employees, from at least 10 stores across the state, as well as close to 100 volunteers from the Tulalip Tribes community and beyond, and more than 30 children under 18, including two of Engram’s own kids, in slogging through the mist and the mud to assemble the KaBOOM! playground for the more than 600 children who attend the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club.

The playground includes a 360-degree spiral slide, a duo rumble slide, lily pods, a rock block wall, a grid climbing wall, a tire swing, six picnic tables and benches, two trash containers and roughly 200 stepping stones, the latter of which looked like elaborately garnished concrete mud pies as they set out under the Boys and Girls Club’s overhanging entrance to dry.

As a South Carolina native with fond memories of Myrtle Beach, Engram and his kids decorated their stepping stones with seashells and other beach artifacts, but Engram set his stepping stone apart from his kids’ by placing his hand-print in it.

Engram took part in the build as part of the Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP program, honoring NFL players for giving back to the community, but this wasn’t his first visit to the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club.

“I came here during the Max Strong golf tournament this summer,” Engram said, before he began drilling together picnic tables. “I had no trouble finding it,” he laughed.

While sports fans and autograph seekers were eager and pleased to see Engram on site, the project’s energy and participation remained high throughout the day, both before and after his attendance, in spite of the day’s dreary weather and taxing physical labors.

While some of the playground structures were able to be assembled before they were planted in the post holes that had been dug for them, even most of those pre-assembled pieces had to be attached to larger structures with screws, at the same time that crews put the weight of their shoulders into holding the structures steady, level and lined up to be pinned together. Before concrete could be poured into the post holes, volunteers like Gary Rogers of R and R Construction measured the distance between each playground structure, and Chuck Miller of the Tulalip Elementary PTSA stood atop the two slides to tighten them together.

Mark Kartic came from the Home Depot in Bothell to adjust the temporary retaining wall around the playground, while fellow Bothell Home Depot employee Jim Philio arrived to shovel bark chips into wheelbarrows steered by Tulalip Boys and Girls Club attendees Drew Hatch and Timothy Hill. Although under-18 volunteers like Hill and Hatch were not allowed onto the bark grounds of the under-construction playground, they were still able to pitch in significantly on behalf of a community resource that they take advantage of on an almost daily basis.

Engram himself was able to put his country-honed manual labor skills to good use, when he and his fellow volunteers realized that the climbing wall they’d placed in its post holes was actually assembled upside down. Before the concrete mix that they’d already poured into the post holes could set, Engram and the other volunteers had to unscrew the climbing surface from the posts that lined it, flip the climbing surface over, reattach it to the posts and replace it in the post holes, steady and level.

“I don’t get to claim this as workout time,” Engram laughed. “I wish I did.”

At the same time, Engram described the day’s labors as enjoyable, and expressed gratitude at having the opportunity to make such a positive and lasting contribution on behalf of local children.

“It’s good for the kids who watch our games to see people who respect themselves and others,” Engram said. “Life is about service. It’s not always about yourself. This playground will help these kids socialize and stay active, but it should also give them a sense of pride and ownership. There are a lot of people who do the right thing and help people, and they don’t get this level of attention. This playground will still be standing long after I’m gone.”

Natalie Proffit, on-site project manager for KaBOOM!, praised the joint efforts of the community as a whole and echoed Engram’s emphasis on the importance of the playground itself.

“Play is a necessity, not a luxury, in the lives of children,” Proffit said. “The community came together to supply tools, dumpsters, honey buckets and food. Home Depot just helped them realize their success.”

Sherry Caraway, district community affairs manager for Home Depot, was especially pleased that they could assist the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club during Native American Heritage Month.

“This has been tremendous,” said Don Hatch, who started the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club 13 years ago, and now serves on the Marysville School District Board of Directors. “When a figure like Bobby Engram comes down here, it lifts the community up, both kids and adults. A lot of politicians come out to the reservation, but we enjoy having regular people here, to see how we live. The fact that [Engram] wants to be part of that is important.”

Hatch cited the number of children who use the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club — from Tulalip Elementary, the surrounding Tribal community and beyond — as one of the reasons why it could always use more support, and more volunteers.

“Today, we had so many helpers that they were like ants, running over each other,” Hatch said on the build day, Nov. 11. “But we need people who can be coaches and referees, too. Education and recreation go hand in hand.”

Vicki Hill, who took over the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club after Hatch stepped down to serve on the Tulalip Tribal Board of Directors, described the surrounding Tribal community as one big extended family, that rises and falls together.

“There was not one organization in the community that did not give a hand up or a hand out for this,” Hill said.

“This has been so amazing,” said Diane Prouty, administrative assistant for the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club, on the Nov. 11 build day. “It’s such a miracle for these kids. There have been so many people here that I’ve been in tears more than once today. I’m so thankful that I’m at a loss for any other words.”

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