Tim Clauson was a general contractor before he came to work for Rockford-based non-profit Kids Around the World 11 years ago.
Now serving as their Director of Playgrounds, he got his start as a volunteer, travelling with his daughter to New Orleans to help install new playground equipment following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
This summer, Clauson and a small crew of summer workers have been busy removing the first of 3 playground equipment sets being donated by the Plainfield Park District to the organization.
He and his crew were getting their first taste of summer heat recently as they set to the task of carefully cutting the ground anchors from the play set and removing swings, slides, and the rest of the equipment at the Park District’s Heritage Meadows Park, in Plainfield.
Clauson said that the group travels all over the Midwest to harvest playground equipment that can be re-furbished, and then reinstalled overseas. Liability issues prevent the equipment from being re-used in the U.S. for the most part he said.
A federal job skills grant helps pay for job training for students who learn welding skills by fastening new ground extensions to the refurbished equipment before it is sent off to another part of the world for re-use. He said that the Heritage Meadows Park equipment was slated to be sent to Ethiopia for its second life.
In past years, playground equipment donated by the Plainfield Park District has ended up in such far-flung places as Iraq, Jamaica, Uruguay, and Haiti.
While the donation of the playground equipment does save the Park District some demolition costs, Executive Director Carlo Capalbo said that the more important result is being able to spread play and recreation opportunities to families in less fortunate parts of the world.
“Playing outside and being active is a vital component for kids everywhere and their development,” said Capalbo who noted that providing recreation opportunities is a big part of the Park District’s mission.
“And, whenever possible, we’re happy to help spread that message to other parts of the world too.”
Photo: A Kids Around the World crew member helps dismantle the playground equipment at Heritage Meadows Park in the Plainfield Park District. The equipment is slated to be reinstalled in Ethiopia later this year.