- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Four Washington Redskins joined 250 workers to build a playground yesterday for 300 children in Capitol Heights.

In seven hours, they erected a swing set, a slide and a red-and-yellow jungle gym on top of shredded mulch surrounded by lush green grass and flower gardens.

“This is not just a playground,” said offensive tackle Chris Samuels, 26, referring to the safe and healthy environment it will provide for children.

“I grew up in a neighborhood where we did not have a playground,” Samuels, a 6-foot-5-inch, 305-pound Pro Bowl player, said of his home community in Mobile, Ala. “We played in the street. It was dangerous, cars driving through all the time.”

Football was among all sorts of games played in the street. Samuels said it was not unusual to have a football game stopped 20 times to let cars and trucks pass.

“I’m happy to be here and ready to work,” he said.

Halfway through the day, he arrived at the Central Gardens Apartment Complex in the 6800 block of Central Avenue with safety Ifeanyi Ohalete, 24, safety Matt Bowen, 26, and wide receiver Richmond Flowers, 25.

The $60,000 playground was provided through a competition sponsored by Redskins All Stars Community Service Initiative. The apartment complex’s playground plan won the competition from among 200 nonprofit organizations.

The playground replaces two broken swings in the lawn behind 200 brick apartments.

About 150 Home Depot employees led the work force, which included 50 from the Capitol Heights community; more than 20 from Edgewood Management, which manages the apartments; and more than 20 from Bell Nursery of Burtonsville.

Planning for the playground took four months. In April, children in the apartments designed the slides and swing sets. Atop the jungle gym is a Redskins emblem painted on a panel, and a uniformed Redskin is painted on a ground-level panel.

The All Stars initiative is run by the Washington Redskins Leadership Council. The 3-year-old group of 35 corporate officers also has worked cleaning up parks, renovating a homeless shelter, creating a 20-foot mural to beautify a community and helping fifth-graders distribute stuffed backpacks to a foster-care home.

Home Depot employees have helped build 115 playgrounds across the country, company Vice President Scott Freeman said.

A crowd of youngsters and photographers clustered around the football players as they raised scaffolding for the four new swings and jungle gym. The manual labor started slowly for the athletes as they paused to pose for pictures and sign autographs.

Then their work began. They paused occasionally to wipe towels across their faces, sweating in the sunshine and nearly 90-degree temperatures.

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