The First Lady partnered with national nonprofit, KABOOM!, corporate partners, and community volunteers to build a brand-new, accessible playground in Clay County through her initiative, Tennessee Serves.

On Saturday, First Lady Maria Lee and Governor Bill Lee gathered with community leaders and volunteers from across Tennessee to build a brand-new playground in Clay County.

The First Lady’s initiative, Tennessee Serves, along with the Tractor Supply Foundation, the Tennessee Titans, and Cleary Construction partnered with national nonprofit, KABOOM! and Clay County government, to build the new, ADA-accessible play space at Hermitage Springs Park. 

The day began with an exciting kickoff ceremony. Volunteers spent the remainder of the morning and afternoon working hard to construct the playground. The day concluded with a celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony including remarks from First Lady Maria Lee, Governor Bill Lee, Clay County Mayor Dale Reagan, KABOOM! CEO Lysa Ratliff, and various other project partners and community leaders.

Driving nails – Governor Bill Lee took part in the groundbreaking of a new park in Clay County.

“We saw many Tennesseans come together to serve their rural neighbors. It is my hope that this playground will continue to bring people together and be a space of joy, growth, and safe play for this community,” said First Lady Maria Lee. “From the beginning of our administration, I have dreamt of leaving something lasting in a distressed county that would bless Tennesseans for generations to come. I am so grateful to all of our incredible partners and the Clay County community for coming together to bring this vision to life.”

The First Lady’s initiative, Tennessee Serves, invited all eight of Tennessee’s federally designated distressed counties to apply for the playground grant and after reviewing criteria, Clay County was selected. This grant and project exhibits Tennessee Serves’ continued commitment to serving and caring for rural and distressed communities across the state.

“We are so thankful to First Lady Maria Lee and each of the partners who have made this project possible,” said Clay County Mayor Dale Reagan. “This playground will be a true blessing for Clay County children, families, and all the generations to come.”

In March, Lee hosted a Design Day in Clay County to hear input from students, parents, and community members on the playground. National nonprofit KABOOM! took the input directly from Clay County to thoughtfully design the play space for the community. 

“Playgrounds are where kids can experience the wide range of physical and mental benefits of play and have the freedom to take risks, build strong relationships, grow, explore, and learn through joyful moments of play, said Lysa Ratliff, CEO of KABOOM!. “KABOOM! is thrilled to work with Tennessee Serves, the Tractor Supply Foundation, Cleary Construction, and the Tennessee Titans, to bring to life the new play space at Hermitage Springs Park and ensure that kids in Clay County and generations to come have a vibrant place to play designed for them to enjoy childhood and unlock their greatest potential.”

Studies have shown the tremendous positive impacts parks and play spaces can have on children and their overall health, academic and physical achievements and socialization skills. This play space is an intentional effort to invest in rural Tennessee’s youth and create a healthier Tennessee.

“At Tractor Supply, we are passionate about supporting Life Out Here and being a good neighbor in the places we call home,” said Marti Skold-Jordan, manager of the Tractor Supply Foundation. “What a delight to bring a bit of joy to the children of Clay County through this incredible collaboration with the Tennessee first lady, KABOOM!, the Tennessee Titans and Cleary Construction. Together, we can help give children the opportunity to get outdoors, have fun and flourish in our state’s rural communities.”

This playground represents an investment of over $285,000 in the success and well-being of the Clay County community.  Investments in local parks and play spaces can have substantial economic benefits, especially in struggling communities. The project also highlights the Lee administration’s focus on supporting rural Tennessee, encouraging community involvement, and promoting the profound impact of public-private partnerships.

Playground – New playground built at Hermitage Springs.

“Cleary Construction and the Cleary Family are grateful for the opportunity to partner with First Lady Maria Lee in her Tennessee Serves initiative to provide a safe and exciting new playground for the community of Hermitage Springs,” said Dawn Cleary, co-owner of Cleary Construction. “We are honored to be a part of the preparation and completion of this project for our neighboring friends of Clay County. We hope this program will have a long-lasting, positive impact on many families and future generations.”

The Tennessee Serves team enlisted Tennessee businesses and many community partners to multiply the philanthropic success achieved in this project. This brand-new playground represents the unification of local government, state government, teachers, families, volunteers, statewide and local businesses, magnifying the impact of investment in the Clay County community. 

“ONE Community aims to support Nashville’s most underrepresented and marginalized communities through three key areas of focus – opportunity, neighborhoods and education. We are proud to support the Clay County neighborhood in partnership with the Office of the first lady, Kaboom! and other fantastic local leaders,” said Johari Matthews, Titans Vice President of ONE Community and Executive Director of the Titans Foundation. “All children deserve a safe and imaginative place to learn, grow and play. We hope this playground will serve as an anchor for the community and the families who call it home for many years to come.” 

This year marks the 5th anniversary of first lady Maria Lee’s Tennessee Serves initiative, with this project marking the initiative’s largest scale project to date. To learn more about the First Lady’s work through Tennessee Serves, visit her website here.

Photos via Facebook.

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