BRUSLY — Homecomings are always special, but when you are the member of the Super Bowl XLIV Champion New Orleans Saints, the taste is even sweeter.
This past Monday, six New Orleans Saints players came to the West Baton Rouge Parish community to play and enjoy the hometowns of two Saints defensive backs: Tracy Porter and Randall Gay.
Porter, Gay, as well as fellow defensive backs Jabari Greer, Pierson Prioleau, Chip Vaughn and Greg Fassitt were at Brusly Elementary School to help students break in a new playground.
This isn't just any playground. It's the culmination of 10 months of grant writing, raffles and lots of support from this town of about 2,000 people, Assistant Principal Sheila Goins said.
It all began, Goins said, on the day she looked at the school's old playground, built 15 years ago to accommodate 300 students, and thought, "This is sad."
The school has 700 students. Students playing on the old swing sets had to count to 30 and then get off so others could have their turn, she said.
In July, Goins got to work. The school hosted a community play day sponsored by KaBoom, a nonprofit that encourages children to play.
After the play day, the school was eligible to compete for a $10,000 grant from NFL Play 60, the National Football League's youth fitness campaign, she said.
To win the money, communities had to go online and vote. School representatives went on the radio to promote the project and after 30 days, the school had garnered 75,541 votes —enough to win the competition.
But the school needed more money to build something functional, she said. Gay, a Saints cornerback whose son Randall III attends the school, suggested raffling Saints merchandise and tickets.
In addition, teachers kissed pigs, people wrote checks, the School Board chipped in and the LSU Community Playground project, a playground design program, drew up plans.
For that effort, the students got a new merry-go-round, a shiny blue, red and yellow jungle gym that can hold 75 students at once, as well as a visit from the Saints.
The $75,000 playground also is equipped with other amenities with names that scream fun. They are the floating balance beam, colossus slide, floating stones, climbing wall and spinning wheels, Goins said.
"We got this because of community involvement," she said. "People really came together."