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State Honoree

Eric Yurko

West Virginia

Eric Yurko, 16, of Bridgeport, W.Va., a junior at Bridgeport High School and a member of the Harrison County YMCA in Clarksburg, built a new playground at the Harrison County YMCA to replace an unsafe and deteriorating play area. "Not only was the playground in horrible condition," said Eric, "it also was not handicapped accessible, which I learned was now a requirement for the YMCA's day care programs." Eric first had to convince YMCA officials that he could complete such an ambitious project. Then, he mailed nearly 600 letters to individuals and businesses soliciting donations, made presentations to local organizations and government officials, and applied for grants.

Once he had raised $30,000, plus another $15,000 worth of materials and services, he ordered new playground equipment and recruited volunteers to help him remove the old play structures and the ground surface around them. Next, they dug holes, poured concrete, assembled the new equipment, and installed a rubberized surface and new landscaping. The new playground, encompassing two age-appropriate play areas, is not only safer and handicapped accessible, but also is able to accommodate many more children at one time. At the dedication, "I saw how incredibly excited the kids were about the playground, and that made all the hard work, the stress and the tension worthwhile," said Eric.