Janie’s Playground project in need of volunteers

Tim Faklis/Review

With a construction start date of June 23, organizers reach out

The groundbreaking for Janie’s playground has almost arrived, but organizers need help.

The project is meant to install a toddler-friendly play area at Casey Lake Park in memory of a little girl from North St. Paul who died unexpectedly at the age of 18 months. Her parents, Sarah and Tony Zahradtka, are looking for volunteers to help complete the project.

Funding for the playground is nearly all lined up, and with construction looming, the Zahradtkas are hoping community members will come forward to help realize their dream, which is now over a year in the making.

They’re looking for people both with and without experience in construction, carpentry, and brick-laying.

The first day of construction will be Monday, June 23, which will be exclusively for skilled volunteers with construction, carpentry or bricklaying experience.

From June 24 to 29, volunteers of any skill level are welcome to join in on the project. There will be 3 shifts, 8-noon, noon-4, and 4-8 on the remaining days.

“Each shift, we’re looking to get about 50 people total, so we’re really looking for everybody at every time,” said Sarah Zahradtka, the project’s founder and prime spokesperson. “We’re particularly light at night,” she added.

Volunteers won’t go away with nothing - aside from the experience of erecting a memorial playground, they’ll be fed by national chain restaurants like Noodles & Co., TGI Friday’s, and Taco John’s during their shifts.

The Zahradkas said they used to take their daughter to parks throughout North St. Paul and Maplewood. Casey Lake Park, where they’re installing the playground, is the one closest to their home, but it wasn’t designed for children as young as Janie, who was 18 months old when she died of “Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood.”

After Janie’s death, the Zahradkas received cash memorials in lieu of flowers, and they wanted to do something meaningful with the money.

A brochure about the park fund came in the mail, and they knew that was it. They could help create something their toddler would have loved.

Now that the project is nearing completion, it might be fitting for the Zahdradkas to take a breather and let it sink in. But Sarah hasn’t hit that point yet.

“It still sometimes feels like a lot to do, but it’s coming together pretty seamlessly,” she said. “Hopefully it goes off without a hitch, but it’s pretty crazy that it’s actually happening.”

There are multiple ways to sign up to volunteer. With any questions, you can email Sarah at Sarah.Zahradka@target.com, or visit the program’s Facebook page.  (*Online edition only*)Otherwise, you can sign up directly at http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0a45aead22a7fe3-volunteer.

You can reach Tim Faklis at 651-74-7814, at tfaklis@lillienews.com, or on Twitter @tfaklisnews.


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