NEW ORLEANS — It might not be the most conventional way to prepare for a championship match at WrestleMania, but The Funkadactyls and Rybaxel geared up for their respective bouts at The Show of Shows by hoisting playground equipment behind Harvey, La.’s Woodland West Elementary School. There, WWE and KaBOOM! — a national non-profit devoted to helping communities create play spaces for children — joined forces to build a playground as part of the WrestleMania Week festivities in the Big Easy.
“Play is very important for kids,” said Naomi, who joined her “Total Divas” co-star Cameron, Ryback and Curtis Axel and a host of volunteers on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for Woodland West Elementary’s new playground. “Recess for me was the best part of my day! I would get on the jungle gym and go crazy. I know these kids will really enjoy this.”
On Friday, KaBOOM!, WWE volunteers, community members and an assemblage of WWE Superstars were then faced with the daunting task of completing construction of the playground in less than eight hours. Braving a brief-yet-formidable midday thunderstorm that threatened to dampen the mood, the rain-soaked crew — including a ponchoed, mulch-hauling Stephanie McMahon — was more than up to the task.
“When I first got here it was raining but we just kept working,” said Natalya. “It was symbolic of the fact that we never stop in WWE. Rain or shine, we’re going to perform. It was awesome to see everyone working through the rain. It wasn’t going to stop us. We made this playground, and we’re making a brighter day for everyone.”
KaBOOM! senior project manager Kristin Karcsh was overjoyed to see WWE and KaBOOM!’s missions of fun align as Superstars worked diligently alongside their fellow volunteers and played spirited games of “Red Light, Green Light” and kickball with the students.
“WWE and KaBOOM! share a very similar philosophy: that kids need to be out and active, and that families are important,” said Karcsh. “Not only did the WWE Superstars surprise us with how much work they did, but they’ve shown that it is a community process to build this playground. “
Back in February, Kofi Kingston hosted a Design Day at Woodland West Elementary, working with students to help them formulate their dream playground. On Friday, The Dreadlocked Dynamo cut the ribbon that officially opened the students’ purple-, blue- and green-hued recess masterwork, which includes a swing set, a rock wall, a WWE play course — complete with such challenges as “Big Show’s Big Hurdles” and “Kofi’s Crawl” — and a triple racer slide. The playground also features an edible garden where students can grow their own fruits and vegetables along with an outdoor classroom tucked away in the shade.
“WWE’s partnership with KaBOOM! is something I hope we continue for a very, very long time, because this is an amazing thing for kids,” Kingston told WWECommunity.com. “A lot of people put a lot of hard work into this playground, and it’s great when people can come together for something like this.”
According to Woodland West Elementary principal Amy Hoyle, students have been “in awe” over the past few weeks leading up to the playground’s construction, excited that their squared-circle heroes played such a huge role in bringing their ideas to life.
“KaBOOM! is the most phenomenal and most reputable playground organization that we’ve ever heard of, so we reached out to KaBOOM!, and when we found out that we had been granted a playground, we had no idea that it would involve WWE,” Hoyle said. “That was just the icing and the whipped cream and the cherry on top.”
For Xavier Woods, who is enjoying his first Show of Shows on the main WWE roster, the project encapsulated what WrestleMania Week is all about.
“People see the glitz and the glamour of WrestleMania, the fireworks and all that stuff, but this, to me, is even more important,” Woods said, to which his mentor R-Truth added, “We’re bringing smiles, we’re bringing cheer, we’re bringing happiness.”