El Dorado Comes Together to Build a Playground in One Day

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Kathy Martin remembers a special conversation her husband, Keith, had the day he died.

"That morning we had seen one of the boys that had grown up and played little league football and he said, 'Hi, coach!' And, he thanked him what he had done," Martin said.

Little did she know that a month after her husband suffered a heart attack that day, September 10, 2011, the city would begin work on a permanent memorial to thank him.

"I was very surprised!" Martin said.

The idea was to build a playground to be part of the new BG Products Veterans Stadium complex in El Dorado.

The spot in the shadow of the goal posts became a perfect place to honor the man who started El Dorado Little League Football in the late 1960's. Keith Martin, a father of five daughters, also served as a coach and referee. And, for 18 years, he taught sunday school classes to two-year-olds and three-year-olds.

He also played football for El Dorado High School and played semi-pro football in Oklahoma, Kathy Martin said.

The Connell and Clifford Stone families were just two of those touched by Keith Martin. They decided to give a monetary gift to the City of El Dorado last October to help kick-start the project.

Many community members and organizations followed suit and provided donations as they worked to raise nearly $70,000.

City staff also applied for a grant to help. The first application was denied. But the next time they had better luck and were given a challenge.

"They kind of challenged us to say, 'Hey, you can build this in one day. Make it exciting and get a lot of volunteers,'" City management Intern Nijah Fudge said.

City leaders and community members accepted that challenge.

Saturday morning, more than a hundred volunteers showed up, each one lending a hand.

"I just hope that people remember that El Dorado built it and did it together," Fudge.

City leaders say it also symbolizes a time of great growth and expansion in El Dorado. A number of projects are in the works or completed, including two new schools, a new children's waterpark, and a new dormitory for Butler Community College students.

This is now the second ADA accessible playground in town.

"It's a great effort, a handicap-accesible playground that gives us a playground in this part of the city," El Dorado Mayor Tom McKibban said.

Hours of work after they started, it was time to celebrate that effort and the extreme makeover performed.

Volunteers cheered, "Move that BG Bus!" and a giant bus sounded its horn and rolled forward to reveal the completed playground.

Kathy Martin says her husband Keith is somewhere smiling seeing this project become a reality.

"This stadium is just wonderful and the playground is such a wonderful compliment," Martin said. "He would be thrilled to see it all."

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