- Associated Press - Sunday, October 23, 2016

PAMPLIN CITY, Va. (AP) - Pamplin teenager Sean Murray grew up going to the playground down the street from his home, where his uncle would swing him on the merry-go-round.

About a year ago, Murray, who was 16 years old at the time, and his friend Alex Swan were sitting on that very same merry-go-round.

“It was rusted and literally falling apart. We thought, ‘Oh, this is in very bad shape,’ but (Alex) never thought anything was going to be said about it. We took it to council, and they all said yes,” Murray said while looking at the Pamplin Playground in early October, when the revitalization project he led there was nearly done.

Two months after that initial conversation with Swan, in November 2015, Murray held the first of several yard sales in the old Pamplin School building in front of the playground to raise money for the revitalization. The first one yielded $360 from items donated by the community, including clothes, electronics and lots of glassware.

“I was surprised because it was Black Friday, and I didn’t think anyone would come to a yard sale,” he said.

More yard sales were held and then a family friend hosted a Brunswick stew sale and raffle that raised $2,000.

The final tally was $5,000, raised from the yard sales and stew.

Murray presented his vision for the playground at the February 2016 town council meeting, and council voted unanimously in favor of it.

Then the scraping and painting began. At the beginning of the summer, a handful of volunteers, mostly Murray and his friends, sanded everything down with steel wool. Paint Company Rust-Oleum donated six gallons each of primer and paint to the project.

Murray said he called up the customer service line to request the paint for the project and heard back from the vice president of the company, who agreed to donate it.

The installation of the monkey bars was difficult, he said, because they were extremely heavy and had to be put together with a specific Allen wrench. The first time they set the piece of equipment up, it took five to six people to carry it. They quickly found out the bolts were not tight enough, and it fell apart. The second time, there were only three or four people carrying it.

Murray said they originally planned to paint the merry-go-round in intervals of red, white and blue. But when some of the white paint dripped onto the primer, he got the idea to splatter paint instead.

“The red looked like blood because it was so thick and dark, but you get the point that (the paint scheme) is not the original kind. . It wasn’t just any other person (who painted it),” he said.

The color choices were in honor of his 19-year-old sister Kathleen Murray, who is in the U.S. Marines and because “red, white, and blue is always cool, especially when you give it a different look.”

The next step is to install a slide with some of the wood left over from building the gazebo and picnic table. Murray said he is waiting to get additional lumber so it can be built by the end of November.

Murray said he wants to use any extra money to fund a fellowship dinner once a month at the park, upon town council approval.

Pamplin Clerk-Treasurer Paulie Johnson said in an email that, as a “youngster,” Murray was an active volunteer with the town and would get involved in whatever was going on at its train depot.

“As he got older, he received a vision, and that vision was to re-do the playground where he spent a lot of his time as a young boy and even ‘til today, he and his friends would hang out at the playground,” she said.

She added town council is very proud of him, his accomplishments, and are honored to have him on their team.

“I hope people come and play in it. It took a lot of time and effort and makes me happy when I see people playing on it,” Murray said. “One day, before the grand opening (in August), I saw a little girl swinging on it and I was grinning like a fool.”

He said he loved growing up in a small town where there is an involved, close-knit community.

“We have 200 people in the neighborhood, probably 20 kids, and for me, where are we going to go for fun?” he said.

The answer is the playground.

During the yard sales, Murray said he heard community members say they were glad someone stepped up to do the project.

The yard sales, for the most part, were a bit boring when there were no customers, especially “when you’re alone in an abandoned building,” Murray said.

However, the most surprising element was how fast the project was completed. Murray would hold the fundraisers on weekends during the school year and, over the summer, started work at the playground at 7 a.m. every day.

The playground was his number one priority and came before hanging out with friends.

“He is a one-of-a-kind teenager that is so passionate about his community,” Johnson said.

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Information from: The News & Advance, https://www.newsadvance.com/

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