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Volunteers needed to build playground memorializing Zahra Baker

By Steve Lyttle
slyttle@charlotteobserver.com

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  • Hickory Parks and Recreation Department is accepting volunteer help through March 23. Volunteers must be at least 18 to participate in construction, but volunteers ages 14 to 17 can help in other ways. To volunteer, call 828-261-2248.



Officials with the city of Hickory and the Kiwanis clubs in Catawba County are looking for volunteers and sponsors to help build a playground this spring in Zahra Baker's memory.

The Zahra Baker All Children's Playground will be built April 12-14 at Kiwanis Park, off Lenoir-Rhyne Boulevard in Hickory. The playground is named for the 10-year-old Hickory girl who disappeared in September 2010.

Her remains were discovered later that fall in Caldwell County, and her stepmother, Elisa Baker, pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder.

Zahra's father, Adam, moved back to his native Australia in January with Zahra's remains.

The playground will include a 50-foot slide, swings, a sand play area, and a play "web" with a number of hands-on toys.

Help is needed on April 12, a Thursday, to unload and move equipment for the build.

Then the playground will be built April 13-14. Volunteers will work that Friday and Saturday in either of two shifts - 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 12:30 to 5 p.m. A single shift is planned for that Thursday.

A large number of volunteers is expected, Hickory parks officials say, so helpers are limited to one shift.

Several organizations - including Kaboom (a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing children's physical activity), Playworld Systems, Let's Play, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A, McDonalds, and Galaxy Food stores - already have joined the effort.

More than $200,000 has been raised from businesses, foundations and grants.

"This has been a true grassroots community campaign," Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright said. "What a great way to honor a little girl who touched so many hearts, not only in our community but across the globe."

"The tremendous support for the Playground for Zahra has been heartwarming," said Steve Aaron, a Western Catawba County Kiwanis Club member and chairman of the playground committee.

The campaign to build the playground began last February, and groundbreaking was Nov. 16, which would have been Zahra's 12th birthday.

WANT TO HELP?

Hickory Parks and Recreation Department is accepting volunteer help through March 23. Volunteers must be at least 18 to participate in construction, but volunteers ages 14 to 17 can help in other ways. To volunteer, call 828-261-2248.

Lyttle: 704-358-6017
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